This I Believe

John - Hillsboro, Oregon
Entered on October 22, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: injustice

GUILTY or not GUILTY

For many years I was a police officer working to “Protect and Serve”. In my mind I never arrested anyone that was not guilty of the crime they were being arrested for. In my mind I was doing a service to mankind to remove such vermin from the streets. In my mind I was a hero doing a job that few wanted to do. Being a member of the “brothers in blue”, a band of men (at that time only men were cops) dedicated to each other, cover for each other, lie for each other, love each other. This was my mind set. “Protect and Serve”??? Very few police officers even think in these terms. Oh they might spout this rhetoric but if they were to be totally honest with themselves they would have to accept their being cops has more to do with the power they wield then the protection and service to others.

After several years of police work I became disenchanted with the “job”, no longer was I satisfied with the thrill of the siren, the power or the invincibility. No longer was I a legend in my own mind.

Before the police make an arrest they should answer 6 questions, who, what, when, where, why and how. Who, what, when, where and how are pretty easy questions to answer. The WHY is often elusive and time is not spent to track that down. They have a crime, they have a suspect, put suspect in jail, case closed.

I give the above for background so you can maybe understand my current belief a little easier.

After leaving law enforcement I bummed around with different jobs then somehow landed a position as a criminal defense investigator. As I look back I have no idea how this came about. I had taken a 180 degree turn in my life. I went from arresting people to assisting in their defense.

The criminal justice system, as we know it, is adversarial. That means “me against you” or the “prosecution against the defense”. In this adversarial arena people are used as pawns on a chessboard with the Judge being the king, the jury the queen, the prosecutor the black knight and the defense attorney the white knight.

In our justice system we are innocent until proven guilty. (If you believe this I have a bridge I would like to sell you). Now this is the basis of my current, and I believe correct, paradigm. As soon as a person sits down at the defense table, next to the defense attorney, they are guilty. So many times I have seen jurors file in, look at the defendant and convict him, right then, with their eyes. I feel very sorry for these people as they do not understand. They have never sat in that seat, they have never been convicted of a felony; shoot most have never been charged with a felony. They don’t understand. They don’t understand the fear the defendant is facing, they don’t understand the loss of freedom the defendant is facing, they don’t understand that this guy may be innocent of the charges he is facing. They don’t understand what it feels like to have your entire life, entire future put in the hands of strangers.

I am the Paul Harvey of the justice system. My job is to get the rest of the story. My job is to get as much of the truth as possible and to get the WHY. My job is not to free the client but to get truth. My job is not to bend the facts but to present them so both sides have a level playing field. I have obtained information that convicted a client a lot more times then truth that set them free. The truth is the truth regardless of which side it falls on.

I believe the truth is the truth and I work very hard to uncover the truth. I believe our justice system, though fraught with problems, is the best justice system in the world. I believe if we could eliminate egos from the attorneys and the judges we would have a level playing field. I believe if ethics still meant anything we would have attorneys present the entire truth to the jury without some of the “facts” being omitted because of legal loopholes.

I believe everyone charged with a crime deserves a zealous defense because it is only through our system can some form of truth be realized. My belief is often trampled in the dust but that’s okay as sometimes it is realized and an innocent man is set free.