the case for innocence
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Join The Discussion: What do you think of this report on how the criminal justice system  has kept inmates imprisoned despite DNA evidence that exonerates them?

Dear FRONTLINE,

As a former defence Barrister from Dublin, Ireland ,words fail me after viewing the Frontline documenatry on DNA. It seems to me the Proscutors and former Gov. Wilder have serious legal and moral questions to answer.Thank God for a free Press.

John O'Grady
BOSTON, Ma

Dear FRONTLINE,

Your program was another slamming indictment of the adversarial system of justice this overly sports driven country chooses to profess as fair.

What's fair about getting off if you have more money to spend on your defense than the state?

What's fair about electing judges to sit on benches where criminal cases, rife with emotional anguish, put said judges in a catch-22 between delivering fair and impartial justice and keeping the seat of power they have fought to attain?

And finally, what's fair about the sad state of a nation that will allow 10-20% of its citizens dictate the outcomes of these elections?

Please, please, please keep this glaring inequity in front of this nation's flagging attention span long enough to wake more of us that we might attempt to make a difference, Frontline.

Steven Cade
Norman, OK

Dear FRONTLINE,


Iwas reading through all of the comments that people made and Bernie McNallan made the best comment in my opinion. Those judges should be removed from the bench. I had my feathers ruffled during and after this program. My husband joined this program later on and was absolutely shocked.

It all boils down to the courts not wanting to admit they were wrong, and the one guy having to sign a contract, or whatever it was called, so that he didnt sue the state. And that was the only way they would release him..Shame, shame, shame.They owe him. He lost 19 years of his life.

sandra E
Kamloops, Canada

Dear FRONTLINE,

The entire episode of Frontline was so unnerving, it has made my friends and I even more paranoid of the power-hungry, uneducated policemen in our small town. I cannot communicate well enough the paralyzing helplessness felt by many of us here, especially blacks, in the face of the law.

It is now becoming commonplace not only to pull someone over without cause, but to search their entire automobile by asking the driver something he cannot decline: "Do you mind if I take a look around?"

Jason Musick
Ashtabula, Ohio

Dear FRONTLINE,

How can we trust those who are supposed to protect our freedom when they are so callous that they will not even allow a prisoner a chance to prove his/her innocence?

More appalling than not allowing the prisoners a chance at DNA testing is that even after some prisoners were proven innocent through science, attorneys and police officials still felt they had the right person.

Thank you for the great program that gave everyone food for thought.

Jeanne Simons
Grand Island, NE

Dear FRONTLINE,

The Frontline documentary "The Case for Innocence" was so disturbing, my wife and I could not continue to watch. To see appellate justices callously disregard the fact that a man's life is being wrongfully destroyed was more than we could stomach.

One consequence of the judicial abuse highlighted by this program is that as average, fair-minded people become more and more aware of cases like this, their confidence in the prosecutorial system erodes, and it will become harder to convict the truly guilty. I am convinced that the O.J. Simpson travesty resulted, at least in part, from the jurors' inclination to mistrust the police and prosecutors. Stories like this help us understand the basis for this mistrust.

...when guilt or innocence become secondary questions issues, the system is broken.

Paul Golden
Ambler, PA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I haven't been able to sleep since I watched your amazing documentary on the The Case For Innoncence.

... I gave up a career in law to pursue a life in academia, but after seeing your show last night, I feel an obligation, if not duty, to return to the legal field to stamp out the true crooks in the criminal justice system like Keller and McDougal.

Jay Krishnan
Milwaukee, WI

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for your complete and important coverage of the O'Dell case. You may be interested in the fact that I not only still have the evidence O'Dells clothing, not the rape kit, which was destroyed, but that it has inspired me to initiate a program at Rutgers School of Law-Newark, "The Innocence Project for Justice." I recently passed both NJ and NY bars and look forward to using my skills to pursue cases like O'Dells. I continue to be involved in DNA related issues. In fact, the Innocence Project just filed an amicus brief to the NJ Supreme Court, urging the Court to consider the hotly debated issue of allowing criminal defendants access to evidence which may support their claim of innocence.

O'Dell's story was truly an international cry for justice in our country. The recognition of the use of DNA as a powerful tool to exonerate the innocent was brought to light with O'Dell's death.

Lori Urs
Princeton, NJ

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you a million times for having the decency to stand up and show us the way the current system has failed. If conclusive DNA evidence is not enough for the system, then the system should be changed. And I mean radically.

Every one involved in the obstruction of justice I witnessed on your program, should be immediately removed from their positions.

I watched your program in Detroit Michigan, and the show airs at 10 pm. I wish this program could be shown in primetime on every network and cable channel in the country, until every man woman and child has seen it. Even if they agree with the closed minds of the judges and prosecutors involved, it must have some kind of impact to their own humanity.

As for the judges and prosecutors, they will ALL have their own judgement day, and I don't mean by any of us.

Lastly, thank you Barry Scheck, for the amazing work you are trying to do in the face of political and government beurocracy. If I were ever to win the lottery, I think I would sign it over to you and the people working with you, to make your job a little easier. Thank you Frontline, thank you for the work you do.

Paul Fogarty
Plymouth, Michigan

Dear FRONTLINE,

I urge those as flabbergasted by the sophistry of Sharon Keller as I to go to the www.texas.gov website and look up the Court of Criminal Appeals to secure the appropriate address to write Judge Keller.

Geni Chariker
Modesto, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

First let me say that the Frontline presentation was excellent. Secondly, let me say that I am not a "bleeding heart liberal." However, I was taken aback by the interviews with DA's, prosecutors and judges who, seemingly, have no interest in the guilt or innocence of those who have been incarcerated and fabricated impossible scenarios in which the accused could still be guilty even in light of compelling DNA evidence to the contrary. I felt as if I was looking into the face of pure evil.

M.Scott Peck called these "The People of the Lie." I think I now have seen the personification of one who would have willingly complied with Hitler's orders. They must be removed from public service.

Geni Chariker
Modesto, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I was niave enough at one time to believe that only the guilty are convicted in a country such as ours, one that proclaims to be the leading protecter of individual freedoms.

The rights of criminals has always been seen as a negative thing that will damage victims of crime. The reluctance of the state to allow people convicted of a crime to bring to light any new evidence that would show an individuals innocence is beyond traditional cynicism.It sends a message that as long as SOMEONE pays for a crime, that we can be satisfied, even if it is shown that the true perpetrator has not been punished. This situation only allows for more victims.

In the case of Mr. Clyde Charles someone not only deeistated the original victim and her family, but Mr. Charles and his family were irrevocably victimized as well. The State of Louisianna showed its true concerns and motivation was not that of Justice nor consolation of the original victim by its unwillingness to allow new evidence, and then, only if Mr. Charles and his family promised not to sue the state for a mistaken 19 year incarceration. The state's only concern was avoiding its own embarasment to both families.

This is also a double-blow for the woman who was raped and her family, as her true attacker was never caught, and the state has made no effort to find the true attacker in this crime, who may well have made more victims of others.

All throughout your program, officials of "Justice" seemed concerned with their own image and political concerns rather than the suffering of those by their own hands of whom they are supposed to protect. Every official confronted with their own misdeeds of Justice seemed to pass the buck or provide their own defence, saying things like, "I never heard of that, I didn't know, I was not responsible." Not one began by stating what a tragedy had been done to those that were innocent.

I do not think I have seen anything more cynical.

Christian Waldorf
Salt Lake City, Utah

Dear FRONTLINE,

Your program on DNA evidence confirmed my opinion of the local, state and federal justice system. I understand the need for laws and punishment in our society, But the abuses of the system by overzelous prosecuters, police and judges makes a mockery of our justice system.

Most people have no idea what prison life is like and the total degradation in the human spirit it causes. To think that even one person is suffering at the hands of those bound to protect them...

Kevin Clark
Oak Harbor , WA

Dear FRONTLINE,

The "Case of Innocence" was so disturbing that my wife and I have to reconsider our belief in the Death Penalty. I thought, as an attorney for two decades and a Pro Tem Judge for 10 years, that the criminal justice system had "innocent" flaws. After watching your piece, I am now convinced that the State's fear of civil lawsuits by these prisoners if they are released is more important than common human decency, upholding basic human rights and showing the moral courage to admit a grevious mistake.

In my opinion, Justice Kaller and Micheal McDougal should be removed from their respective offices for gross incompetency in the face of overwhelming evidence of innocence and for trying to "conjer" up new issues not presented at the trial to keep Roy Crimer in jail.

In the Virginia case, criminal prosecutions should begin against the person or persons who authorized the destruction of the DNA evidence prior to the execution of the Virginia prisoner. My wife and I are completely and utterly appalled at what is happening to these prisoners...

Bernie McNallen
University Place, Washington

Dear FRONTLINE,

The most disturbing thing about your program was not that some mistakes were made in the judicial process -- we all knew that -- but rather the unwillingness of appellate judges, attorneys general, and prosecutors to reopen cases based on compelling new DNA evidence.

This refusal to act seems to stem from a desire on the part of these officials to protect their institutions, or to further their own political aspirations. The condition in one instance of the
state demanding a pledge not to sue in return for allowing DNA testing is nothing short of extortion by the state.

The refusal to reopen these cases based on compelling new evidence is a crime not only against the American people but against our American heritage as well. I think we've got the wrong people in prison, in more ways than one.

Bill Carr
Raleigh, North Carolina

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