Data recently released by the GHSSS* shows that 60% of you would choose to plead guilty to an offense you did not commit if you could avoid jail time.
This past week, a special prosecutor recommended that Tim Masters be released, after DNA exonerated him of the crime for which he’d been in jail for 9 1/2 years.
What does this tell us? I think it means that a conviction doesn’t mean an individual is guilty. It coud be that the jury found the defendant guilty under a version of the truth as presented to it, or simply that some people decided it would be better to just admit to something you didn’t do and avoid spending years incarcerated.
But what I’m really curious about is the folks that said “no” to the question asked in the poll. It occurs to me that the answer to the question might depend on whether you are a lawyer or not. Lawyers, especially criminal defense lawyers, see the system up close. We have clients who we believe are innocent and yet are convicted. We know how easy it is for the State to obtain a conviction in child sex cases (or even rape cases). Balancing the interests, the prospect of avoiding jail time for sure is too appealing to pass up.
On the other hand, if you’re not a lawyer, the principles of truth and justice might shine brighter. You may actually still believe in the fairness of the system and put faith in the notion that it is a truth seeking enterprise and that you will be vindicated because “you didn’t do it”.
So, I invite those of you who selected “no”, or would select “no” to share your reasons. Are you a lawyer? Why did you choose no? What would make you change your mind? Would you ever plead guilty to a crime you didn’t commit?
Anyone else with any other thoughts is also invited to jump in.
*not a real organization. Kudos to you if you figure out what it stands for.