In a masterful law review article in the Georgetown Law Journal, Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, lists the twelve legal fallacies that he believes are common factors in the more than 1,500 exonerations since 1989. Judge Kozinski was appointed by President Ronald Reagan and is considered a conservative.
He has spent the last thirty years on the appellate court hearing appeals from people who have been wrongfully convicted.
The twelve fallacies are:
1. Eyewitnesses are highly reliable;
2. Fingerprint evidence is foolproof;
3. Other types of forensic evidence are scientifically proven and therefor infallible;
4. DNA evidence is infallible;
5. Human memories are reliable;
6. Confessions are infallible because innocent people never confess;
7. Juries follow instructions;
8. Prosecutors play fair;
9. The prosecution is at a substantial disadvantage because it must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt;
10. Police are objective in their investigations;
11. Guilty pleas are conclusive proof of guilt; and
12. Long sentences deter crime.
He follows his discussion of each item on this list with the sentence, “What I have listed above are some of the reasons to doubt that our criminal justice system is fundamentally just.”
I cannot do justice to the article, entitled “Criminal Law 2.0” in a blog post. Please go to http://georgetownlawjournal.org/files/2015/06/Kozinski_Preface.pdf and read it for yourself.