>Back in the dark days of the late '80s, when greed was good and Bush continued Reagan's work of systemically dismantling governmental mechanisms put in place to ensure at least a small measure of fairness and equity for all living in the US,* L.A. Law ruled the airways. I was in junior high, struggling with the bullshit of adolescence and developing a moral radar for political and religious hypocrisy. L.A. Law highlighted all these issues. I was hooked.
Mostly I loved Susan Dey's character. She was a prosecutor who worked to protect women and communities from evil criminals who preyed on them. Although she didn't make nearly as much money as the vile divorce attorney Arnie, she was doing good for the world. I decided that this was exactly the job for me.
More than a decade later, I dropped out of law school on my third day. While I still wanted to help people, particularly those living in low income communities, I learned that there were many ways to do this that did not involve the torture of law school's Socratic method. It also came to my attention that the mentality of many district attorneys was far less noble than L.A. Law led me to believe. Time after time, evidence would appear that indicated that a defendant was innocent. The Cult of the Prosecutor, however, refused to acknowledge that they might have the wrong person. Instead of trying to serve justice, they stubbornly insisted on continuing cases. Even after DNA evidence exonerated those wrongfully convicted, the Cult insisted that the person did the crime.** Nope, I wasn't cut out for the District Attorney's office.
All this ran through my mind this morning as I read a story in today's New York Times about a woman released from prison after serving 13 years of a sentence for killing her teenage daughter. DNA evidence revealed that her boyfriend's blood was mixed in with the victim's body. Of course, the DA's office doesn't apologize for her conviction, partly derived from her boyfriend's testimony against her, which they secured by granting him immunity from the crime. No, instead, the DA is planning to retry her on a charge of second-degree manslaughter. Even better, even if she is convicted of the lesser charge, she won't return to prison because she already served the maximum sentence that charge carries. No, there's absolutely nothing wasteful about a second trial. Really, a second trial would not just be about vindictiveness. It's about justice. For who, I don't know. It sure is way too late for the poor kid, who was neglected at times by her mother, abused by her stepfather, and then killed by someone who is immune to prosecution for her murder.
*The more things change, the more they stay the same. Sigh.
**This is why shows like Law & Order are my favorite forms of escapist entertainment. The cops and ADAs always drop charges against people who are innocent so that they may find the real perpetrators and justice can be served. If only real life were like TV in these cases...