Letter: Hold Government accountable for Hash

Your recent article about Michael Hash, the man who was accused of
murder and wrongly imprisoned for 12 years really struck me. In today’s
modern society, you would think that criminal offenses by government
officials in the handling of innocent people’s court cases wouldn’t be
acceptable. I understand that before DNA testing was available, it was
often difficult to prove someone’s guilt, but the fact that government
officials deceived the courts and the people without any punishment is

Our criminal justice system is based on Classical Theory, the theory that knowing the punishment for a crime will deter you from doing it. Yet, this theory doesn’t seem to apply to government officials since they don’t receive the punishments. They know that even if they mishandle a case and commit crimes in the process, they won’t be prosecuted, or at least not harshly.

As written in the article, only one case of the 250 first exonerations from DNA testing held a prosecutor or law enforcement officer responsible for fabrication of evidence or other criminal actions, and even that case resulted in an acquittal. Programs like The Innocence Project shouldn’t have to exist, but since they do, we should stop accepting the pedestal government officials stand on and make sure every man, no matter his job title, is treated equally under the law.

Devin Kennedy

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and something else people should know. If a prosecuter charges you with a misdemeanor then the locality pays 100% of the cost of prosecution, but if the prosecuter charges you with a felony and then rolls it back to a misdmeanor they get paid a fixed amount by the state to "help" with prosecutions. They claim it has no influence on thier decision, however the number of cases rolled back equates to a lot of money.

Meanwhile the number of people charged with a felony for what should have been a misdemeanor is a large amount and it is in thier permnent record, hurting thier job prospects, often keeping them on welfare costing the state way more money than the proesecuters office gets in the reimbursment program.

I hear their defense that they charge and roll back to get a plea deal but if this program were not on such a "commission " based system it would be more equitable.

If they are felonies then do your job and convict, if they are misdemeaonrs do your job and convict. But stop screwing people for a few bucks in state reimbursment money.

Bill, 95% of the time the Police and magistrate decide what the charge will be. The prosecutor is left to clean up the mess

ha! Heck must be freezing over, because for once, I'm in complete agreement with Bill Marshall: it is routine for prosecutors to review charges or for police to say "they are pending" (ie, we're consulting with prosecutors) waaaay more than 5% of the time, in an effort to so double-and-triple book the same crime that a defendant will forgo a trial and due process simply to avoid risking treble-jeopardy and will plea out - which takes it out of the hands of the judge and jury, and hands over the whole "trial" process to prosecutorial discretion.

This is one way in which so many innocent people plea to rather ugly crimes - for fear of being convicted on circumstantial evidence, while police and prosecutors get to rack up great "numbers" and statistics.

I'm reminded of the young barber from JPA who was picked up and held for nearly two weeks - this 20 years into the era of DNA - based on a faulty victim identification. He was guilty of 'walking black' and had DNA not been present to ultimately exonerate him, I'm sure he'd have accepted a shorter sentence for a single count rather than risk life in prison.

This happens constantly.

Prosecutorial immunity is extremely dangerous -- they should absolutely be held liable if they are found to have knowingly lied, misled people, or withheld exculpatory information in order to win a conviction.

Other broken things about our criminal justice system: 1: the ability of prosecutors to pile on charges and hope that one of them sticks. 2: scaring the accused into a plea bargain by threatening a long and unjust sentence in return for a shorter one (but a guaranteed conviction).

1 used with 2 can often get someone to plead guilty even if they are innocent because the a guarantee of 2 years in prison vs a possibility of 30 is basically a 1 man prisoners dilemma.

I am not a virginia resident, so I don't know much about its judicial system. Maybe some of the VA legal eagles here can tell us whether the VA disciplinary code for VA lawyers spells out unacceptable behavior for prosecutors. I notice that some young punks just out of law school think they are on a mission to clean up their county. They seem to forget that they are there to do justice, not just win at any and all costs.

So very well said .

I supported the death penalty up until about 7 years ago, I took a closer look at the cost and mistakes. Nope , cheaper to keep them in a cage to think about what they done for ever. Or enough time to make sure we don't kill the wrong person.