You’d be hard pressed to find someone here in California, or across the entire nation for that matter, that would be okay with a wrongful conviction. No one wants to be accused of doing something they didn’t do. But even though our criminal justice system says that a person is innocent until proven guilty, it often doesn’t feel that way to many when they are wrongfully convicted of crimes they didn’t commit.
In 1989, a 19-year-old man was caught having sex with his 17-year-old girlfriend. It was entirely voluntary and consensual, and indeed the couple married and have been man and wife for 24 years now. Strictly speaking, however, the sex was statutory rape. He agreed to plead guilty to a count of oral copulation with a minor, thinking to minimize the consequences. It didn’t work.
The chief judge of the 9th Circuit court of appeals just issued a stinging rebuke to members of his own court, assistant U.S. attorney who tried the case before them, and federal prosecutors across the nation. His comments were part of his dissent in a federal weapons case in which the prosecutor appeared to have held back evidence he had been legally and ethically bound to deliver to a defendant facing federal weapons charges.
This week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is holding a rare re-hearing on the constitutionality of collecting the DNA profiles of arrestees into databases intended to solve future crimes. The appellate court has heard the case before but decided to rehear it in light of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on a similar Maryland law this June.
An Arizona boy who was convicted of at the age of 10 of sexually abusing other boys has appealed his conviction to the 9th Circuit. The U.S. Attorney arguing against the child says the prosecution was “the best thing that could have happened to the kid.”
While there are plenty of Spanish speakers in California and across the U.S., speaking a foreign language is not necessarily the same as being qualified to translate legal materials. The difference became clear recently when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit vacated one man’s federal drug manufacturing conviction because the officers who interrogated him mistranslated his Miranda warnings in a way that essentially denied him his Sixth Amendment right to the assistance of counsel -- in particular, the government’s obligation to provide a criminal defense lawyer at public expense if he could not afford one.