Article Spotlight by the Managing Editor of Articles
Lara Bazelon, Ending Innocence Denying, 47 Hofstra L. Rev. 393 (2018).
In my position as Managing Editor of Articles, I am fortuitous enough to be one of the very first to see a variety of opinions, suggestions, and calls for action by leading scholars on a wide range of issues. Frequently, those Articles which I review during the search for a new publication, open my eyes on issues that I would previously not think about and leave (what I am sure will be) a long-lasting effect on my law career. Ending Innocence Denying, written by Lara Bazelon, appearing in Issue 2 of Volume 47, was most certainly one of those articles. Professor Bazelon expertly shines a light on a specter of wrongful convictions. Presenting a narrative which lays out many issues which lead to innocent people being jailed, the excruciatingly long road to overturning that conviction, even in the face of overwhelming evidence, and the impact such convictions make on lives of those affected by them. Professor concludes on a positive note, offering a guide as to how to make sure, those who have been wrongfully put behind bars can enjoy their freedom once more.
The Article opens with a picture of the criminal justice system, explaining the difficult role the prosecutors must play. However, swiftly, the Article begins to critique what it means to be a “good prosecutor.” Stating that simply being “tough on crime” or having a “perfect win record” is not enough. Instead of stating that a good prosecutor does not just win, but helps to right his wrongs. Within a first few pages, the reader is exposed to an issue, provided with a definition, and shown examples of prosecutors actively working to keep innocent people in jail, due to their own ego or self-interest. This is contrasted by stories of victims, those who have been wrongfully convicted and fought—or currently continue to fight—for their freedom. Expertly reminding the reader that there is always more to the story than just a news blurb, and to remember to view everyone as human, and not just as a label of a “criminal.”
As the article progresses, the Author spends a considerable amount of time on not simply saying that innocence denying is an occurring phenomenon, but on the question “why.” Taking a dive into the history of “tough on crime” approach and its growth through the past decades, nurtured by a desire for power, and lack of consequences for those prosecutors who, rather be known for a winning track-record, rather than seekers of truth. However, Professor Bazelon takes a turn to show the rise of the opposite school of thought. One focused not solely on winning the trial, but by engaging in a bit of heroism. By righting wrongs of wrongful convictions by actively working with non-profits and the judges. Additionally. The Author does state that with the rise of social media and a push from various entertainment industries, the paradigm can shift to “cement” the new “good prosecutor” one who discovers truth and justice, and not just after a winning record. Encouraging the move towards a brighter future where the prosecutors do not just punish but work to fix the mistakes of the past.
A National Registry of Exonerations, which collects, analyzes and disseminates information about all known exonerations of innocent criminal defendants in the United States, from 1989 until today, states that in 30 years, 2,413 people were exonerated, with combated time spent behind bars being 21,095 years. Decades of lost human potential, that no monetary compensation can ever bring back. The words of Professor Bazelon made me consider my own role as an advocate and to remember that at in the end, the profession is to serve the people first and work tirelessly to not fall victim to one’s own ego. A lesson that is crucial, and which I believe many others will learn once they read the Article in Issue 2.
Yaroslav Mankevych, Managing Editor of Articles, Volume 47