It is more important that innocence should be protected, than it is, that guilt be punished; for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world, that all of them cannot be punished.... when innocence itself, is brought to the bar and condemned, especially to die, the subject will exclaim, 'it is immaterial to me whether I behave well or ill, for virtue itself is no security.' And if such a sentiment as this were to take hold in the mind of the subject that would be the end of all security whatsoever. -John Adams
New York City, New York - Last week, an innocent man was finally exonerated after spending over 21 years in prison. 49-year-old Derrick Hamilton was framed by a crooked cop in 1991.
The cop threatened a woman into testifying against him for a murder that he did not commit.
Hamilton was released from jail on parole in 2011, but was not formally exonerated until last week.
From the moment that he was accused, Hamilton denied the charges against him, and swore that he was set-up. It was not until years later that the witness against him came forward to say that he was in fact innocent, and that police had forced her to testify against him.
Even from the begining there were elements of the witness's story that were incorrect. The witness had testified that the victim was shot in the chest by a lone gunman, but an autopsy revealed that the victim was shot in the back. Later evidence was also uncovered showing that there was likely more than one gun fired in the attack.
The witness said that she was intimidated by former NYPD detective Louis Scarcella, an officer who has now been fired from the police force for wrongfully imprisoning people and other forms of corruption. Hamilton's case is one of about 70 mishandled cases that are tied to the former detective, and it is likely that many more cases will be overturned.
"One day in prison is too much for an innocent man, It's exhilarating. It's a grateful day," Hamilton said outside of court on Friday.
Judge Thompson released the following statement after the conviction was overturned:
Recommended for You
"Wrongful convictions ultimately destroy the lives of the people who are wrongfully convicted, as well as their families, and also do great damage to the integrity of the justice system. The people of Brooklyn elected me to ensure that justice is done and that is what my decision to vacate Derrick Hamilton's conviction reflects. The Conviction Review Unit carefully analyzed the scene of the crime and based on the scientific and medical evidence concluded that the sole eyewitness' account was unreliable."
In criminal law, Blackstone's formulation (also known as Blackstone's ratio or the Blackstone ratio) is the principle that:
"It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer"
Unfortunately we find ourselves under an authoritarian state in which the opposite view is held. Prosecutors are seemingly more concerned with a win than they are with the truth.
Bismarck is believed to have stated that "it is better that ten innocent men suffer than one guilty man escape." Pol Pot made similar remarks.
Wolfgang Schäuble referenced this principle while saying that it is not applicable to the context of preventing terrorist attacks.
Alexander Volokh cites an apparent questioning of the principle, with the tale of a Chinese professor who responds, "Better for whom?"
Former American Vice President Dick Cheney said that his support of American use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" against suspected terrorists was unchanged by the fact that 25% of CIA detainees subject to that treatment were later proven to be innocent, including one who died of hypothermia in CIA custody. "I'm more concerned with bad guys who got out and released than I am with a few that in fact were innocent." Asked whether the 25% margin was too high, Cheney responded, "I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective. . . . I'd do it again in a minute."
John Vibes is an author, researcher and investigative journalist who takes a special interest in the counter culture and the drug war. In addition to his writing and activist work he is also the owner of a successful music promotion company. In 2013, he became one of the organizers of the Free Your Mind Conference, which features top caliber speakers and whistle-blowers from all over the world. You can contact him and stay connected to his work at his Facebook page. You can find his 65 chapter Book entitled “Alchemy of the Timeless Renaissance” at bookpatch.com.