Several prominent crime cases have made national headlines of late that call into question whether victims and their families might sometimes have justice denied them in the judicial system. The nationally prominent cases–first Amanda Knox and, more recently, on Fri., Dec. 16, the novelist Michael Peterson–highlight how a once convicted killer can go free on essentially a technicality.
More locally, in Georgia–but which also garnered national attention, it was alleged that Troy Davis’ case should have resulted in his going free, at least according to advocates who sought his release days before he was to be executed for killing Savannah Police Officer Mark Allen MacPhail.
Killers walk free on technicalities?
In the first two instances, a conviction was gained against Knox in Italy and Peterson in the U.S., only to be overturned due to issues taken in both cases with the evidence collection and presentation methods used by the police and prosecution. In the latter case, regarding Davis, Georgia’s judicial system upheld the conviction, with key witnesses and investigatory bodies having solid evidence of guilt.
In neither of the first two cases–Knox and Peterson–was it proven that the evidence was false, just that the evidence could have been contaminated, damaged or inadvertently mishandled during the collection or analysis phases of the investigation.
This eventually led to a statement on Thurs., Dec. 15 by the Italian appeals court judge in the first case, in which he stated that the case against Amanda Knox and Rafaelle Solliceto could not “be proven” with the evidence as gathered and processed.
Crime “can’t be proven” does not mean “suspect innocent”
Judge Pratillo did not ever say Amanda Knox and Rafaelle Solliceto were “innocent,” despite her family’s insistent otherwise, as reported by CNN. Instead, it was “The lack of proof of guilt,” that led to Knox’s freedom on the murder charge according to Italian Judge Claudio Pratillo.
In fact, evidence proved that Amanda Knox purposefully and falsely accused one man of the crime of murdering Meredith Kercher and that her and her then-boyfriend Rafaelle Solliceto’s alibis did not match one anothers the night of the murder.
In addition, while questionable by the appeals court as it was, blood and DNA–if collected and processed according to appeals court protocol–could have proven her and Solliceto’s guilt potentially.
In the second case, that of Michael Peterson, he was the only person at the home the night his wife sustained several blunt force trauma wounds to her head and died in a bloody stairwell of the home. In addition, the Durham DA, who remains a person of integrity in the investigation, contends that autopsy findings and other evidence they have do make him “Guilty as hell,” according to ABC News.
Crime victims, families and you the losers
When a convicted killer is able to get free from prison on a technicality, despite their great probable guilt, the victims and their family do suffer the greatest, but others suffer too. Not only does a potential harmful criminal gain the freedom to target a victim and their family again; they gain the freedom to seek out new victims and perpetrate additional crime on an unsuspecting public.
Georgia recidivism rates and “technicality” releases
Georgia recidivism rates for criminals released back into society tends to be high, with the AJC reporting that statistics for the state of Georgia in 2008 showed as many as two thirds could end up back in prison within three years of their release if the trend continued. And Georgia is one of the few states with a low recidivism rate.
No one knows just what recidivism rates are for those criminals who gain their freedom through technicalities within the court system, however. What deterrant have they experienced to stop them from committing more crime?
They’ve not been rehabilitated. They’ve not paid the price to victims or society for their misdeeds. They have no motivation legally to refrain from further acts–especially if they’ve gotten away with crime due to a technicality.
References: AJC, ABC News, CNN