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The justice system

Posted: Thursday, February 14, 2002

As long as this country has capital punishment, we must make every effort to reduce the danger of wrongful death sentences. The constitution project in Washington, D.C., has created a bipartisan initiative. Members include law officers, prosecutors, judges, prison officials, victim advocates, religious leaders and journalists.

Our country's death penalty system has been called into question. Too many convicted people have had incompetent, drunken attorneys, some of whom have been known to fall asleep during the proceedings. Nearly 100 inmates have been released because DNA or other evidence cleared them. The constitution project has reached agreement on 18 major reforms to help ensure that this country does not execute the wrong people. They are asking the federal government and state governments to adopt these recommendations: Engage better lawyers for poor people facing the death penalty; require prosecutors to turn over all the evidence in a case; end the executions of juveniles and the mentally handicapped; provide DNA that could prove a defendant innocent; and eliminate legal technicalities that could prevent the freeing of innocent death row inmates.

If there are this many wrongful convictions in major crimes, how much more wrongful convictions are being passed out for minor crimes where there is less concern? I have been a victim of a wrongful conviction, and have since seen many wrongful convictions in this state because of unscrupulous prosecutors and lawyers. I have seen defense lawyers working with the prosecutors to get a verdict against their own clients. When a man goes into court in this state, he has to defend himself against his own lawyer, the prosecutor, sometimes the judges, the state and the news media, and that makes it almost an impossibility for a just verdict. You are guilty until proven innocent, and you are denied an honest defense.

I think it is time to put some morality and honesty back in our justice system, for I believe it is out of control.

James Onstott

Juneau



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