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23rd May
2012
written by Dame Suzy

I’ve been watching a lot of old Cold Case episodes – the fictional crime series that aired from 2003-2010 that tackles cold cases from anywhere from a year to decades-old. For the most part, though, I’ve noticed that when they do find the culprit, there’s no feeling of victory because the arrest and subsequent jailing of the murderer seems to do more harm than good to the other people involved, ruining more lives than just the murder itself did. Of course, because the story thrives on nuance, the murders committed tend to me spur-of-the-moment and often accidental, which is not necessarily the case in real life. Or is it?

On the one hand, I could be drinking the Kool-aid that the show puts forth, and in real life, there are many more diabolical murders taking place. But I really don’t think so.

On the other hand, many murder investigations lead to false imprisonments as I unfortunately have read a good deal about since becoming a donor to The Innocence Project, which uses new sophisticated DNA methods to exonerate innocents convicted of murder, most of them after they’ve been in jail for a decade or two or more. It sickens me that so many lives can be ruined by over-zealous and down-right criminal prosecutors.

Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that a prosecutor will not face any liability for deliberately incriminating an innocent murderer by withholding evidence and the like, I have to come to the conclusion that many unsolved homicides should stay that way. The idea that someone can be convicted of a crime based on a good deal of circumstantial evidence doesn’t sit well with me. If you don’t have a clear-cut case of murder, then you must acquit. I believe that crimes that carry severe punishments should carry a much higher standard of proof as well instead of just beyond a reasonable doubt. Why criminal cases stop at that burden of proof, I don’t understand. I’ll leave it to law people to come up with a better standard.

I used to believe that capital punishment is fine for egregious crimes, believing that only a tiny percentage of those convicted were in reality innocent. How could we sentence someone to death without a conviction beyond the tiniest shadow of a doubt? But we do, and we do so more than a handful of times.

So let some go free so that everyone can move on with their lives. Old cold cases leave unsolved and move on to the thousands of crimes that are fresh.

Note that a high percentage of crimes go unsolved. According to this article,

In 2008, police solved 35 percent of the homicides in Chicago, 22 percent in New Orleans and 21 percent in Detroit.

To me, suspiciously, statistics are almost the opposite in other cities:

Yet authorities solved 75 percent of the killings in Philadelphia, 92 percent in Denver and 94 percent in San Diego.

Could such high prosecutorial rates simply be attributed to better and more resources and smarter people? Or are prosecutors more aggressive and sometimes ruthless in pursuing convictions?

Those who murder time and again are probably easier to convict. Focus on them and easy-to-solve crimes. A random, elusive murder with little evidence? You simply have to let the perp go.

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