No Votes in Justice Means More Wrongful Convictions

28 Pages Posted: 9 Jun 2016 Last revised: 10 Jun 2016

Date Written: June 5, 2016

Abstract

At the expense of justice, governments improve the cost-efficiency of the criminal justice system but thereby weaken the safeguards against wrongful convictions. Doing so makes more money available to be spent on more politically profitable areas because there are no votes to be gained by improving the system. As a result, the poor state of resources given the criminal justice system, increases the probability of wrongful convictions in these ways:

1. Prosecutors’ method of plea bargaining changes so as to produce more guilty pleas which increases the probability of wrongful convictions. Such change is an attempt to counteract overcrowded and lengthening pre-trial custody in very bad jail conditions due to very inadequate government funding of such facilities.

2. Procedural laws, such as those concerning the disclosure and admissibility of evidence, provide inadequate opportunity to challenge the reliability of evidence produced by complex technology.

3. Therefore rules of procedure and practice always give way to, so as to compensate for, the lack of adequate resources, instead of holding firm to maintain the safeguards against wrongful convictions.

4. The longer is pre-trial custody, the greater is the probability of a guilty plea, which increases the probability of wrongful convictions.

5. The probability of wrongful convictions is increased by increasing numbers of defendants in the courts without lawyers, which is due to: (a) very poor government funding of legal aid programs; and, (b) law societies’ failure to attempt to solve the unaffordable legal services problem — the one aggravates the damage done by the other. And,

6. The lack of coordination among: (1) governments; (2) the law of disclosure laid down by the courts; and, (3) law societies, is increasing the probability of wrongful convictions.

The article begins with the author’s experiences as an Assistant Crown Attorney (a Crown prosecutor) in the criminal courts of Toronto, Canada, in 1966-1976. It deals with the changes since then in regard to, plea bargaining, disclosure to defence counsel, and the preliminary inquiry, and with Ontario’s grand jury until it was abolished in 1975.

Several supporting articles are cited in regard to: (1) the use of electronic records technology to produce electronic records as evidence without regard to the serious, common defects in their: (a) software; and, (b) records management and control; and, (2) the access to justice issue that is the unaffordable legal services problem, which is clogging the courts with self-represented litigants, which greatly slows the processing of cases.

This article contains history concerning, plea bargaining, disclosure, and the grand jury in Canada, that is not otherwise available.

Suggested Citation

Chasse, Ken, No Votes in Justice Means More Wrongful Convictions (June 5, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2790625 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2790625

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