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Convictions at any cost?

The Washington Times
December 26, 2001

System of injustices
by Paul Craig Roberts

This Christmas season while counting our blessings and enjoying the
comforts of family, take a moment to say a prayer for the tens of
thousands of innocent Americans who will watch the passing of another year
from comfortless prison cells.

Among these many is Christophe Yves Gaynor. In my considered opinion, Mr.
Gaynor was framed by a corrupt prosecutor and railroaded by a corrupt
judge. Mr. Gaynor was a skateboard coach in Virginia who took his team to
a New York competition. One of the team members attempted to purchase
drugs. To restrain him, Mr. Gaynor threatened to tell his parents. The boy
struck first by accusing Mr. Gaynor of molesting him. The entire team knew
the charge to be false, but the improprieties of the trial defeated

Another innocent is Carl Graf. When he declined a woman's sexual advances,
the spurned woman accused him of molesting her son.

Because of religious scruples, Anthony Kovaleski refused to testify
against his wife, prompting angry police to concoct charges against him.

Conservatives have hardened their hearts against the wrongfully convicted.
Mistakes happen, they admit, but they believe most mistakes result from
liberal judges letting the guilty go free.

Conservatives are right that the guilty often go free, but the reason is
that the innocent are convicted in their place. Justice is no longer a
concern of the justice system. Careers depend on conviction rates. It is
easier for police and prosecutors to get convictions by piling charges on
a convenient suspect until they coerce a plea than to solve a case and
find the truth.

Mary Sue Terry, former attorney general of Virginia, has this to say: "Our
concern has turned from seeking truth to seeking convictions, and our
post-conviction efforts are focused on denying any further review."

Judges have written to me in response to the book, "The Tyranny of Good
Intentions," that I coauthored with Larry Stratton about the breakdown of
our justice system. They confirm that injustice is often served by the
justice system.

As one of the few columnists who writes about wrongful convictions, I
receive numerous pleas for help. It is impossible for me to investigate
and write about the many cases. All I can hope to accomplish is to make
the public aware that once conviction replaces truth as the goal of the
justice system, no one is safe. Sources of help for the wrongfully
convicted can be found at

With the advent of DNA evidence, every week we learn of new cases of
wrongful conviction. People on death row and people who have spent most of
their lives in prison are being released as DNA evidence proves them to be
innocent of the crimes for which they were convicted: Albert Wesley Brown,
imprisoned 18 years in Oklahoma; Marvin L. Anderson, imprisoned 15 years
in Virginia; Jeffrey Todd Pierce, imprisoned 15 years in Oklahoma. The
list far exceeds the length of this column.

Forensic evidence, once thought to be conclusive, has turned out to be
unreliable and fraudulent. From time to time, we see news reports of
forensic experts whose work has fallen under suspicion: Pamela Fish in
Illinois, Fred Zain in West Virginia. One, Joyce Gilchrist, a 21-year
veteran of the Oklahoma City police forensic lab, is under investigation
by Oklahoma authorities, the FBI and a federal grand jury. Of her cases,
112 have been set aside for scrutiny, with 500 more to be reopened.

In nine of 10 Gilchrist cases being examined by the federal grand jury,
the defendants have already been executed.

As a result of new tests, DNA evidence has unsettled many police and
prosecutor offices. Recently in Arlington, which in my opinion has one of
the least reliable justice systems in the United States, the chief deputy
clerk of the county circuit court destroyed the DNA evidence and alleged
murder weapon in a death penalty case under appeal.

The defendant's lawyer is astonished that "where a person's life is at
stake, the government is of the view it can destroy the evidence with
impunity and say, 'Yes, we destroyed the evidence, so what?'"

Another festering scandal is prosecutors who pay "snitches" with money or
dropped charges to produce testimony that can be used to convict other
defendants. Most often, the testimony is false, but the prosecutor has his

Yet another scandal is the advent of feminist and lesbian prosecutors who
hate men and use their office to act out sex grudges.

Yes, there are honest police, prosecutors and judges.

But the pressures they are under to match the conviction rates of the
corrupt and to clear court dockets will eventually leave our justice
system entirely in the hands of a heartless breed that never suffers the
pangs of a bad conscience.

Paul Craig Roberts is a columnist for The Washington Times and is
nationally syndicated.

Copyright 2001 News World Communications, Inc.
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