Justice System Perfect? 35 Years for 5 Dollars!


What if You Were in Jail for 35 Years Over a $5 Theft? Justice Served?

What if You Were in Jail for 35 Years Over a $5 Theft? Justice Served?

On This Date in History:  In recent years, there have been legal cases in the news in which an person accused of a crime have been cleared following DNA testing.  Just a week or so ago, a tv news magazine show had a story about a man who was in prison for rape for 11 years.  The victim was absolutely sure that he was the attacker.  But, DNA evidence pointed to another man.  While people claim that we have the best legal system in the world, cases of the wrong person being put in jail have been a part of legal history since the inception of the country.  It is for this reason that I am against the death penalty.  It assumes a perfect system, which it is not.  While there is no evidence that a convicted and executed person was later exonerated, it is possible.  In non capital cases, at least you can release the wrongly convicted.

clarencegideonfonda

The Real Clarence Gideon

The Real Clarence Gideon

When someone is released from prison after he has been found to be guilt free of a crime, the state often compensates the person for their incarceration…which is tough because it is difficult to ascertain the worth of a portion of someone’s life.  Sometimes, compensation is given to people who may have been guilty but whose time did not fit the time.    That is exactly what happened on this date in 1966 when Stephen Dennison was awarded $115,000 after being imprisoned for 34 years after being convicted of stealing a $5 box of candy.  This case may have had some connection with the 1963 Supreme Court Case of Gideon v Wainwright.  That case was turned into a made for TV movie called Gideon’s Trumpet starring Henry Fonda.

Elimira Reformatory

Elimira Reformatory

Dennison was 16 years old when he plead guilty in a New York court in 1925 for stealing a box of candy worth about five dollars.  He was given a 10 year suspended sentence.  That seems pretty fair.  But, he failed to make a monthly report to a local minister which was part of the deal.  So, Stephen was shipped off to the Elmira Reformatory in 1926.  The following year, he was given a rather interesting classification.  He was designated as a “low grade moron” and sent to the Institution for Male Defective Delinquents(Dannemora).  There he stayed for nearly the remainder of the 10 year sentence.  Just 6 months before the sentence was completed, he was sent to the state hospital for the criminally insane.  There was no judicial review or court hearing.  He was simply given a certificate of lunacy.  I’m not sure if that is the same of getting a certficate of broadcast meteorology or not.

Guards at Dannemora

Guards at Dannemora

Anyway, Stephen had a half brother named George who fought for his release for 24 years.  Finally, in 1960 George gained Stephen’s release on a writ of habeas corpus.  Stephen was 51 years old.  Now, Stephen was deemed a “low grade moron” and a lunatic by the state but he wasn’t stupid.  He sued the state for illegal incarceration and he was awarded $115,000 on this date in 1966.  But, the judge in the case said “No sum of money would be adequate to compensate the claimant…”  Which brings me back to my original point….had this been a capital case…who would or what would be paid in the case of a wrongful execution?

 Weather Bottom Line: Forecast still looks on track.  Cloudy today with highs pushing 60 or so.  Tuesday, more in the way of sunshine with highs in upper 60’s to near 70.  Wednesday, low 70’s.  Cold front approaching will help pick up winds from the south and southwest.  As front moves through, we will see rain chances increase Wednesday night.  Severe threat is minimal…just not enough time for stuff to come together and the timing is no good.  Then we cool down to near seasonal levels for the remainder of the week.

DAY 3 CONVECTIVE OUTLOOK 
   NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK
   0221 AM CDT MON MAR 16 2009
  
   VALID 181200Z – 191200Z
  
   …NO SVR TSTM AREAS FORECAST…
  
   …SYNOPSIS…
   SOME AMPLIFICATION OF THE UPPER PATTERN IS FORECAST THIS PERIOD…AS
   THE FLAT TROUGH CROSSING THE N CENTRAL CONUS EXPANDS AS IT MOVES
   INTO ERN CANADA/ACROSS THE GREAT LAKES REGION. 
  
   AT THE SURFACE…A COLD FRONT WILL CONTINUE MOVING EWD ACROSS ERN
   CANADA/THE NERN CONUS…AND SEWD ACROSS THE MIDWEST/OH
   VALLEY/CENTRAL U.S. THROUGH THE PERIOD.
  
   …MID MS/LOWER OH VALLEYS INTO THE OZARKS…
   RETURN FLOW MOISTURE IS FORECAST TO BE LIMITED ACROSS THE S CENTRAL
   CONUS AHEAD OF THE SAGGING SURFACE FRONT…AS A SURFACE RIDGE
   PERSISTS ACROSS THE NRN GULF/GULF COAST REGION RESULTING IN
   ELY/ENELY LOW-LEVEL FLOW ACROSS THE GULF OF MEXICO.
  
   WHILE THE MARGINAL MOISTURE COMBINED WITH RELATIVELY COLD MID-LEVEL
   TEMPERATURES /AROUND -18 C AT H5/ SHOULD YIELD AMPLE AFTERNOON CAPE
   FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS INVOF THE
   FRONT…CAPE SHOULD PROVE INSUFFICIENT FOR WIDESPREAD SEVERE
   POTENTIAL.  ATTM…IT APPEARS THAT A FEW STRONGER CELLS — AIDED BY
   MODEST SHEAR FORECAST ACROSS THIS REGION — COULD REACH SEVERE
   LEVELS DURING THE AFTERNOON/EARLY EVENING.  THUS — WILL INTRODUCE A
   LOW PROBABILITY THREAT FOR HAIL/WIND…WHICH SHOULD DIMINISH RAPIDLY
   AFTER PEAK HEATING.
  
   ..GOSS.. 03/16/2009

4 Responses

  1. I find myself in rare disagreement with you, Bob. I see that our legal system is flawed but even at its best it will never be perfect. If the only reason you’re not for the death penalty is because our legal system is not perfect then you might as well say that you’re not for the death penalty period since no legal system or judge on this earth will ever be perfect. If the death penalty is justifiable in certain cases then fix the system, don’t allow those that commit capital crimes to live out their natural lives and deny our society justice.

    It’s not about revenge, it’s about justice for the victims and society as a whole. Revenge and justice are two completely different things. I don’t believe in revenge but I do believe that a just society is a good society.

    Hope good things are happening for you, Bob. Give me a shout sometime.

  2. So, given that its an imperfect system…what do you do if there is a mistake? My remedy would be that, if it is ever found that there was a mistake, that the jury, judge and prosecutor should be charged with negligent homicide. They accidently killed the wrong guy…and they must be held accountable if you are looking for justice. I would also suggest that we have a lottery to play the role of executioner. People who support the death penalty are all for it until you suggest that they be the guy…its okay when its someone else pulling the switch but no me, brother! Also, I find it quite odd that those who say that they are pro-life are generally in support of the death penalty. I don’t see how one can be both…either life is sacred or it isn’t. I had a guy whom I used to work for say “no…innocent life is sacred” to which I responded that, as we have seen, the system that declares someone guilty is not always correct and therefore, it is possible that a person deemed not innocent may very well be innocent and if that person is executed, then the state has in fact killed the innocent, sacred life. He said, “well, its the best system on earth” and I said, “when you have an absolute, permanent, final punishment being the best is not good enough.” And finally…if one uses the Ten Commandments as a guide, it says “Though Shalt Not Kill” it does not say “Though Shalt Not Kill Except When the State Decides Its Okay to Kill and If The State Makes a Mistake then Its Still Okay.”

    I have given this much thought and have concluded that there are too many questions and too much room for error to assign a ultimate, terminating punishment. Besides, if you really want to punish someone…make them live solitarily.

  3. With regards to the Ten Commandments, one must be careful not to quote “Thou Shalt Not Kill” out of context. The same book that has the Ten Commandments also outlines specific cases in which capital punishment for the nation of Israel was not only justified but ordered. Murder was among those cases, of course. So, “Thou Shalt Not Kill” from the Bible doesn’t mean, “Don’t Eat Meat”, “Don’t Squash Bugs”, and “Don’t Execute Murderers”, in my opinion. I would think that any fair reading of the Bible, particularly the Pentateuch (spelling?), would draw the same conclusion.

    Actually, I would think that solitary confinement would fall under “cruel and unusual” punishment. Being cut-off from all human contact is a horrible thing. (It’s also very expensive!)

    I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one, buddy.

  4. But of course. I saw Alan Keyes once give a very powerful, biblical reason that supports the notion of the death penalty. At the root of my objection is the finality of the sentence. If the acknowledged flaw system is an error, there is not a way to set things right. The ultimate penalty should have a corresponding ultimate system…and that does not exist. If we had a lottery for executioners…I bet that the support for the death penalty would drop. If a jury was told that it would be held for negligent homicide if they convicted the wrong guy and he was executed, I bet there wouldn’t be too many capital convictions. Talk about incentive for a reasonable doubt…

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