Equal process

Hyatt, Jason J.



Equal Process One prominent organization estimates that between 2.5-5% of prisoners are wrongfully convicted if not actually innocent. Others put it even higher, but right in that first sentence is hidden a legal distinction not many in the lay public are keen to discern: “wrongfully convicted” versus “actually innocent.” To fancy the reader I will inform you that I am both; but it is also my radical opinion that so long as a rich man can purchase his freedom, I say it does… …not matter whether someone is actually innocent or not. Chances are that a poor man was only “convicted” or copped a plea in the first place precisely because he was poor. Over 95% of accused take the plea, and they take it from jail, because rich people don’t take pleas and they can post cash bail. You need cash bail or private counsel, preferably both; but if you have neither: you better take that plea, because you will be found guilty. So long as this paradigm exists, I say it is better… …better to let an actually guilty man free on account of his poverty, than to allow a rich man to tip the scales. Until a rich man is barred from purchasing private counsel and forced to stay in pretrial detention, there can be nothing approximating equal justice. Along this theme, there can be nothing approximating equal treatment in the classist eyes of the law without a jury of one’s actual peers, socially and economically. Half of all Americans can’t scrape up $500.00… …in an emergency and it is this bracket of individuals that most likely have some sort of a record already, likely obtained by plea. But it is also these people that will never survive jury selection as a prosecutor can almost smell their negative attitudes and experience with law enforcement and the courts. These are my peers. How arbitrary is it for the government to claim that anyone they preselect will suitably serve as your “peer,” even anyone at random? A typical jury will only be your “peers” if you, like them… …could afford bail and a paid attorney; but they would not consider you their peer if you got walked in with restraints. Even through your ill-fitting “street clothes” they can make out the shock-belt or ankle-bracelet. They notice the wrinkles on your clothes, your gaunt, disheveled appearance, a shitty hair cut and bad shave, (if any). They know just by the scared look of a dog you display when interacting with the bailiff that you are already in custody. But then again it’s just as likely that due to… …the mugshot and media coverage, they assumed you, “that guy” were already in prison. Now there can be no equal justice until the media is required to play a positive narrative and post a pleasant pictures of you on the 5 o’clock news “alleging” what this “alleged” victim said, allegedly. The crime beat comes straight from the prosecutor or sheriff and it is the State’s narrative. At least some counter-narrative, -- some affirmative defence is required to counter- …vail the credibility of the State, the media, and the television. A not-guilty plea and saying “allegedly” is just not enough. That jury has been convinced of your guilt for months before they ever stepped foot in that court room. And so has the judge, a political animal and coward to the media, imposing higher and higher cash bail amounts more and more frequently, and handing out lengthier sentences accordingly. Even if a man of means is found guilty, or takes a plea, his plea and sentence will be statistically lesser… …than his indigent “peer.” Equal justice can not be found when it takes a small fortune just to live in jail, when you can’t even afford bail. Its like a carnival, with $1.00/minute phone calls and $1.00 ramen noodles; $10.00 medical co-pays followed by zero treatment; and the constant theft or destruction of your property by guards. Any outstanding, albeit disputed charges, fees, fines, etc.: they then deduct 50% of what ever charity you were able to scrounge up, and at… …exactly when you are least able to pay. Your idea of working on your defence is placing dead-end collect calls to your absentee public pretender, who never calls you back. And guess what: your “privileged” attorney calls are recorded anyway, and your legal mail scanned. But for the rest of the 23½ hours per day you aren’t thinking about legal work: you are trying to not get assaulted; to stave off hunger pains, trying to stay warm, and catch a wink of sleep. Deodorant is a luxury, and dental floss is… …contraband. Your body and breath stank so bad that your attorney winces in side-bar, like you farted in her face. That’s assuming he or she even showed up early enough to side-bar: “Did you get my messages?” S/he’s in on it too: double billing you for time spent visiting in court, and claiming they were in court when they were still traveling. And s/he’s got a calendar filled with 100 indigents just like yourself. There can be no equal justice until everybody – and I mean everyone, experiences these same conditions. There can be no equal justice while a prosecutor’s most effective weapon is simply how long you languish in jail, and how harsh that jail is. This has absolutely nothing to do with facts or evidence; guilt or innocence. It is about money. There is no more a reliable factor in this outcome of a case. They cite the economy of the plea in averting the expense of a trial, yet don’t even flinch at the idea of spending tens of thousands of dollars per year to imprison a man, -- a possibly innocent man, no less. And if one should be so bold as to exercise is right to trial? Well then he better win or else he will be penalized solely for exercising that right. There can be no equal justice when jail conduct reports are admissible to be viewed by the judge, completely prejudicing you where the media might have failed. Or maybe its your own public defender calling you “difficult” in front of the judge, something I assure does not happen with private-paid counsel. The fact is that the State’s attorney has no better idea of a defendant’s actual guilt or innocence than the public defender (who is also appointed and paid by the State, i.e. who we kiddin’?). It called a legal fiction: the State has there’s and you have yours; but rarely if ever has an unadulterated truth ever been told or found at trial. Money makes your legal fiction plausible and buys reasonable doubt. No one locks their doors in fear when a rich man knowingly walks scott-free, yet civilization itself… …is in peril if that indigent you saw in the mugshot somehow walks. And then I realize that I would prejudice myself, if I could step outside myself. I admit that when I don’t know or am unsure, I don’t extend reasonable doubt to the unkempt stranger accused of a heinous crime: I trust the polished government official. I don’t want to believe my government would just as easily send an innocent man to prison because he turned down a plea offer. So it is a duty to sit on a jury, but there is no duty… …to discuss or teach our children how to be a responsible juror. But that would imply bursting our bubble, and painting a much more sinister side of our government. It would also mean teaching concepts or courses in law, and the business of teaching the law is as jealous as the guild itself. Such skills are just not given away at the public schools. If there were too many lawyers (and judges), then their valve and incomes would lower inversely. And upon further thought, if a whole class of poor people were… …sponsored to go to law school, rich people would fear losing that privilege they are keenly aware that they have. A poor man in a position of authority might resent the rich man for his wealth and privilege; but is there such a thing as being prejudiced by one’s wealth, --or is that tantamount to sophism? Or, at best we could hope that by this affirmative action, the axe of arbitrariness that once only fell on the poor will at last swing both ways? Is it only acceptable for an average of 5% of the… …public to be wrongfully convicted so long as they are poor? How many wrongfully convicted poor people is catching one guilty man worth? That is, is it more important to let a guilty man go free at the risk of convicting an innocent man; and how many? And if we are not convicting people solely on the likelihood of their guilt, then what motives exist for locking up as many people as we do, guilty or not? Although I proposed some controversial changes in process earlier herein, all the process in the… …world won’t guarantee any better of an outcome. It’s about power and money; and money is power: there can be no equal justice in the courtroom until rich defendants are treated approximately the same as poor defendants. Just the presence of rich detainees alongside poor would raise conditions of confinement, and reduce the coercive power of pretrial detention on the plea bargain. The State might feel a need to give poor detainees better bargains and try only those that were most likely “actually” guilty. One thing is for sure: no one is discussing the cost to society of falsely convicting a man, and of course, I am not that man. If there’s anything I learned in the several years as an innocent, wrongfully convicted prisoner, it is that nobody wants to hear that shit. It comes with a sense of obligations, and it’s just easier to go with what the government said. It’s official. And we can blame, “them,” not ourselves, for the injustice. * Note: I apologise for this rubber-pencil I am currently restricted to. I am in solitary (indefinitely), -- which still doesn’t justify the restriction, but I thought I’d explain that I have no other medium to write with. Very respectfully, Jason J. Hyatt [address]

Author: Hyatt, Jason J.

Author Location: Wisconsin

Date: 2021

Genre: Essay

Extent: 20 pages

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