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Wrongful incarceration.

I am an attorney who has been representing indigent clients for the past 14 years. When I read a November 1 letter-to-the-editor titled "Wrongful Incarceration," the writer's logic seemed to make sense. "It is truly unfortunate ... and I'm sure we all agree that the pain of his loss must be enormous. But, as unfortunate as it is, it really isn't anybody's fault. Think about it, he didn't go to prison in a vacuum. He either pied guilty or no contest or a jury convicted him."

The writer noted that "technological improvement is a result of the march of time" that shouldn't be used as a crutch in today's "culture of victimization" and asked "who pays when the guilty go free?"

I did think about it and one thought predictably led to another. There's more to the issue than logic. Our society is organized for the purpose of doing good--by, of, and for the people. We embrace the Golden Rule. When people are unintentionally harmed by the operation of our institutions, including but not limited to an imperfect and evolving criminal justice system, reparation ought to be the response. But lawyers and jurors alone should not be targeted for any such cost--victim or otherwise.

Permitting the guilty to escape justice is the price American society pays to counterbalance the effect of our known human imperfections. That cost is borne by the whole. We all know this burden stems from our belief that innocence until guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt--and adherence to rules--must be at the heart of our criminal justice system.

Technology aside, making amends for our mistakes goes far beyond being politically correct. It is evolutionary--sociological improvement that has given rise to an ethic of reciprocity unanimously shared by all major religions.

Henry Hower

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Title Annotation:Letters
Author:Hower, Henry
Publication:Florida Bar News
Article Type:Letter to the Editor
Date:Jan 1, 2005
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