Thursday, April 26, 2007
The answer is Old Sparky
The Graffiti says "Lesbians against Means of Arms" (but in Hebrew slang,
the word for arms - Zayen - also means penis)
The Hebrew article makes it clear that the lesbians in question not only
hate men but also all Jews, even those without penises.
2. Jihad comes to UC-Riverside
4. Praising Terror:
5. The Answer is Old Sparky
Capital Punishment Wins another Round of Argument
by Steven Plaut
8 Iyar 5767, 4/26/2007
Whenever the issue of the death penalty arises, including in Israel, its
opponents start screaming about all the "wrongfully convicted and
executed" people. The urban myth of wrongfully executed innocents is one
of the most common in the media.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal this week, judge Morris B. Hoffman
(Colorado district court judge and an adjunct professor of law at the
University of Colorado) takes a serious look at that claim. It is
'One of the earliest and most oft-cited works on wrongful convictions was
a 1987 study done by Hugo Bedau and Michael Radelet, claiming that 23 of
the 350 capital defendants whose cases they examined (including Sacco and
Vanzetti) were executed despite their factual innocence. Yet the method by
which Mr. Bedau (a philosopher) and Mr. Radelet (a sociologist) determined
whether the executed defendants were actually innocent was to reconstruct
from the trial record, and contemporaneous newspaper reports, a one-sided
narrative from which some doubt about factual guilt might plausibly be
argued. Scholars immediately criticized this methodology, and challenged
Messrs. Bedau and Radelet to come up with a single case of a demonstrably
innocent person executed in America in the modern era. Messrs. Bedau and
Radelet have not only been unable to do so. One of them has recently
admitted that their label "innocent" was really just a way of saying there
were errors in the trial, that guilt seemed to them to be a "close call,"
and that some of those close calls must surely, as a statistical matter,
have involved some factually innocent people....It is a giant leap from an
erroneous trial ruling to reversible error, and another giant leap from
reversible error to actual innocence.'
Hoffman goes on to calculate the wrongful post-trial conviction rate in
the US as only 0.013%. But since only 5% of cases go to court trial in the
US, the overall wrongful conviction rate is around 0.00065%. And there is
no evidence that any wrongfully convicted person was ever executed in the
So instead of trying to deal with terrorism through capitulation and
appeasement, maybe Israel should try capital punishment! The entire
country was forced into the Oslo debacle under the slogan "Let's give it a
try." So regarding capital punishment, why not give it a try?
April 26, 2007
The 'Innocence' Myth
By MORRIS B. HOFFMAN
April 26, 2007; Page A19
Criminal defendants in the United States are sometimes wrongfully
convicted. If that's news to you, you don't know much about human
fallibility. You must also have somehow managed to avoid the increasingly
shrill polemics issuing, daily it seems, from our nation's law schools and
their "innocence projects," which have spent the last 20 years trying to
paint a picture of our criminal justice system so dismal that a rightful
conviction seems the exception and not the rule.
The director of one of those innocence projects said in a 2002 magazine
interview that "we as a nation" would rather have the criminal justice
system convict 10 innocent people than let one guilty person go free,
inverting the famous Blackstone Ratio. Today, that project's Web site
lists as one of its missions the duty to educate the public about the
"prevalence" of wrongful convictions.
But what is the real wrongful conviction rate? Innocence projects, and the
liturgies that have grown up around them, are strangely silent when it
comes to that question. And of course in imperfect complex systems, it is
the error rate that matters. That means we must look not only at the
number of wrongfully convicted defendants, but also at the number of
rightly convicted ones. And there lies the empirical challenge.
Before the advent of DNA testing, there were only a few narrow
circumstances in which we could confidently assess a defendant's guilt by
any method other than the trial itself. In the era before the corpus
delicti rule was vigorously enforced, "victims" of "murder" occasionally
resurfaced very much alive. Fingerprints and some other kinds of pre-DNA
forensic evidence discovered after trial could sometimes do the trick.
Later confessions by the "real" criminal could also prove convictions
wrongful, though, of course, there is the problem of false confessions.
Perhaps because of these definitional challenges, there has been very
little in the way of comprehensive study of wrongful conviction rates. But
that hasn't stopped the mythmakers. One of the earliest and most oft-cited
works on wrongful convictions was a 1987 study done by Hugo Bedau and
Michael Radelet, claiming that 23 of the 350 capital defendants whose
cases they examined (including Sacco and Vanzetti) were executed despite
their factual innocence. Yet the method by which Mr. Bedau (a philosopher)
and Mr. Radelet (a sociologist) determined whether the executed defendants
were actually innocent was to reconstruct from the trial record, and
contemporaneous newspaper reports, a one-sided narrative from which some
doubt about factual guilt might plausibly be argued.
Scholars immediately criticized this methodology, and challenged Messrs.
Bedau and Radelet to come up with a single case of a demonstrably innocent
person executed in America in the modern era. Messrs. Bedau and Radelet
have not only been unable to do so, one of them has recently admitted that
their label "innocent" was really just a way of saying there were errors
in the trial, that guilt seemed to them to be a "close call," and that
some of those close calls must surely, as a statistical matter, have
involved some factually innocent people.
The mythmakers also directly conflate trial error rates with wrongful
conviction rates. Studies showing astonishingly high error rates in
capital trials have very little to do with the question of the rate at
which innocent people are being convicted. I can't remember a single trial
over which I have presided -- including dozens of homicides -- in which,
looking back, I didn't make at least one error in ruling on objections. It
is a giant leap from an erroneous trial ruling to reversible error, and
another giant leap from reversible error to actual innocence.
Much of the empirical confusion about wrongful conviction rates has been
driven by histrionics over the death penalty. To a large and unfortunate
extent, the debate about wrongful convictions in a capital context has
become a proxy for arguments in favor and against the death penalty. Lost
in the cross fire is any reliable data about the actual wrongful
But the innocence data can be mined for some approximations. And those
approximations suggest that the actual rate of wrongful convictions in the
United States is vanishingly small.
In the first place, almost all criminal defendants plead guilty. The
national plea bargaining rate is around 95%. That means that even if
juries get it right only 80% of the time (an assumption at which most
sensible scholars would cringe), the overall post-trial wrongful
conviction rate would still be only around 1%.
But the real wrongful conviction rate is almost certainly lower, and
significantly so. Earlier this week the innocence project at Cardozo
School of Law issued a press release celebrating the 200th person
exonerated by DNA testing. But in the 20 years innocence projects have
been operating, there were roughly two million criminal trials in the U.S.
Assuming as many as 25% of those trials resulted in acquittals (and
ignoring, as the innocence merchants are wont to do, the problem of
wrongful acquittals), the wrongful post-trial conviction rate is only
0.013%. Since only 5% of cases are tried, that would place the overall
wrongful conviction rate at around 0.00065%.
Of course, this is just a lower bound estimate, based on several
admittedly questionable assumptions, including that the innocence-project
data is representative, and that no innocent people plead guilty. But even
if this estimate is an order of magnitude or two low, it is still
considerably less than the mythmakers would have us believe.
Even cases that make it to trial are rarely about factual innocence --
that is, whether the defendant actually committed the acts with which he
is charged. Yes, there are the occasional "whodunits" -- I even had a
homicide whodunit earlier this year -- and even categories of cases in
which factual guilt is more likely to be a legitimately contested issue,
such as sex assaults. But those cases are very much the exception. The
vast majority of criminal trials in America are not about factual guilt or
innocence, they are about the defendant's state of mind at the time of the
crime, and therefore about the level of offense of which the defendant
will be convicted.
Exaggerations about the unreliability of the criminal justice system are
not just matters of scholastic impurity and pedagogical extremism; they
threaten to become self-fulfilling. In a system as dependent on plea
bargaining as ours, a widespread belief that the system is hopelessly
unreliable will only encourage innocent defendants to plead guilty to
lesser offenses. It also leaves many jurors, who expect "whodunits,"
unprepared for the real work of the typical criminal jury -- to decide the
defendant's level of culpability -- and therefore unduly resistant to
defenses based on lack of culpability.
Of course, the work of innocence projects is incredibly important and
should be celebrated, even if the projects had identified just one
wrongfully convicted defendant, let alone hundreds. That's because trials
should be about truth, and errors in truth detection -- whether convicting
the innocent or acquitting the guilty -- should concern us all. Innocence
projects may also have significant things to teach us about discrete
points in the criminal justice system that are particularly prone to error
(such as coerced confessions and cross-racial identification).
But it is a mistake for them to stretch their results beyond all
statistical sense. All defendants are entitled at trial to the scrupulous
presumption of their innocence. They are not entitled to the
post-conviction presumption that the criminal justice system is about as
reliable as tossing a coin.
Mr. Hoffman is a Colorado district court judge and an adjunct professor of
law at the University of Colorado. This article was adapted from a
forthcoming issue of the Chicago-Kent Law Review.
URL for this article:
7. Virginia vs Israel