Netflix’s hit show “Making a Murderer” has everyone talking. Steven Avery’s release from prison after 18 years served for a crime he didn’t commit has people wondering how well the criminal justice system works. His later conviction for the rape and murder of Teresa Halbach brought up even more questions about police corruption and overzealous prosecution. As a result of the documentary, many have said that they wouldn’t want to be tried in Manitowoc County, where Avery was tried and convicted. Whether Avery did or did not commit the crime for which he was sentenced, there are lessons that can be learned from his experience. Cries of police corruption and overreaching prosecution are not unique to this case alone.
An Imperfect System
As humans, we are flawed. Since the criminal justice system is made up of humans, it too, is imperfect. Though checks and balances have been set in place to make sure justice occurs, unfortunately sometimes people are wrongfully convicted of crimes that they did not commit. With the advancements in DNA technology, new evidence has been able to exonerate over three hundred people since the eighties. Exonerations from DNA and other new evidence add up to 1,729 exonerations since 1989. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, there were 22 exonerations based on DNA evidence and 117 exonerations based on other evidence in 2014 alone. The tragedy of wrongful convictions is not just for the person convicted, but also for the victim, the families of the victim and any future victims of the true perpetrator. Justice is not served when a person is wrongfully convicted.
Avery’s case is not the first time that police corruption has been claimed. In fact, our very own Chicago has been said to have the most corrupt police force in America. For years, it has been called the “False Confession Capital” of the world. A 60 Minutes report from 2012 noted that Chicago had double the number of documented false confessions of any other city in America. While most men and women on the police force are upstanding citizens doing their best to protect and serve, this disturbing statistic shows that as with any system, there is room for improvement.
Safeguards to Justice
For the pursuit of justice, the criminal justice system has safeguards in place. Among those are the rights of the accused.
- Writ of habeas corpus—The government cannot just imprison someone without a charge. This latin phrase which means “you have the body” prevents the government from holding a person for more than a short period without charging the person for a crime. This prevents the government from imprisoning a person without a compelling reason.
- Jury Trial—A person has right to a trial by a jury of peers. This is to protect the person from police corruption and overzealous prosecution, because the ultimate decision of guilt is decided not by the police or prosecution, but by peers.
- Self-Incrimination—No person can be compelled to witness against himself or herself.
- Double Jeopardy—A person cannot be charged twice for the same crime.
- No Excessive or Cruel and Unusual Fines or Punishments—A person is protected from punishments or fines that are cruel such as torture.
- Search Warrants—Police cannot search or seize a person’s property without a warrant.
- Due Process—All accused have a right to a fair trial which includes the right to an attorney.
Lessons from “Making a Murderer”
There are many lessons to be learned from “Making a Murderer.” Ignoring claims of police corruption and prosecutorial overreach, there are still things than any person dealing with the criminal justice system can learn, even if all involved are honestly working in the pursuit of justice.
- Anything you say can and will be used against you—the police are trying to find evidence to discover who committed the crime. Once they have evidence and are convinced of a person’s guilt, they will continue to try to build the case. This includes questioning the accused and trying to obtain evidence to use against him or her.
- Exercise your right to remain silent—some of the most disturbing scenes in the series were of the police attempting to get confessions. Remember above, anything you say can and will be used against you. You have the right to remain silent. Use it, and avoid any problems that may come from police misconstruing something you said.
Obtain a lawyer—With the police and prosecution doing their best to pin evidence on you, it is essential to have a person on your side too. Your lawyer can make sure that due process is followed, that warrants are properly obtained and that you are properly protected during any questioning.
Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney
In Chicago, your best defense against any charges is to hire a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney. An attorney is such an important part of due process that every person accused of a crime has the right to an attorney and is appointed an attorney if he/she cannot afford one. This is an important part of the safeguards that we have in place for the criminal justice system. The defendant needs someone that knows and understands the law to make sure that his/her rights are protected and that justice can be upheld. When a person is wrongfully convicted, justice loses. Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Tower Legal have extensive experience working to defend clients. Call Tower Legal today to set up an appointment to discuss your criminal case.