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Is this really how the law works?

(32 Posts)
DaftJelly Sun 15-Jan-17 19:31:12

I've recently had lots of time at home and I've been watching tv like The Good Wife and Conviction etc.

So often on these types of program you get innocent people on trumped up charges that they can't disprove, and guilty people who get off on technicalities. It's basically all down to how clever the lawyers are, the mood of the judge and the sympathy of the jury. Not to mention all the politics involved.

Call me naive but I always thought the justice system was fairer than that. I know it's only American telly stuff but it's really made me think. So basically anyone could be in the wrong place at the wrong time and end up in prison for life for a murder they had nothing to do with.

Is that really how it works? Or is it actually much fairer and this is just telly nonsense?

Newtssuitcase Sun 15-Jan-17 19:32:39

Our legal system is completely different from the US system. And it is TV not real life.

But yes of course there are still miscarriages of justice.

user1484317265 Sun 15-Jan-17 19:33:29

It's mostly just telly nonsense, but there have been awful miscarriages of justice, particularly on death row. People who should never even have been arrested have ended up on death row.

Cindbelly Sun 15-Jan-17 19:34:36

I've just finished watching the good wife and they did an episode with an English lawyer
They explained the difference on the show as:
U.K. - innocent until proven guilty by the court
US - guilty until proven innocent by the lawyers.

It's a tv show, no idea if that accurate in real life blatant placemats to find out!

user1484317265 Sun 15-Jan-17 19:34:58

that was meant to say particularly America!

EmbarrassingBaddie Sun 15-Jan-17 19:36:32

Highly recommended Making a Murderer on Netflix.

Trills Sun 15-Jan-17 19:37:00

Is that when Eddie Izzard turns up?

EmbarrassingBaddie Sun 15-Jan-17 19:38:23

Things are a lot fairer in the UK (mainly thanks to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act) imo. Juries can still make some weird decisions though.

WankingMonkey Sun 15-Jan-17 19:40:15

As I understand it, some people have been convicted for nothing but circumstantial evidence. But this seems to be rare. AT least I hope it is, or thats fucking more terrifying.

Catsize Sun 15-Jan-17 19:40:31

I think that part of the reason behind bizarre jury verdicts is too much CSI etc.

DaftJelly Sun 15-Jan-17 19:42:08

So like this one (season three), the lawyers know she's innocent, even the judge disagrees with the verdict so they're all just looking for some way to overturn it, like the jurors being indiscreet or some paperwork not filled in.

Is it better than that here?

Cindbelly Sun 15-Jan-17 19:42:28

trills yes that's the episode I was thinking of

EmbarrassingBaddie Sun 15-Jan-17 19:44:08

Catsize yy many people expect an impossible amount of forensic evidence and thinks that if it's not there then the defendant must be inocent

WankingMonkey Sun 15-Jan-17 19:45:38

American law is a lot more fucked up than ours though. Seer the Jonbenet Ramsey case. Grand jury indicted John and Patsy, yet DA said no. So why bother with a GJ in the first place if you are going to overrule them? Then, new DA 'exonerated' the Ramseys, based on NOTHING. Used the excuse of DNA, even though the DNA 'evidence' wasn't strong and has indeed been disproven now also. DA at the time knew the DNA evidence was shaky at best but still chose to do this. Mental really...

user1484317265 Sun 15-Jan-17 19:47:26

A grand jury will, as the phrase has it, indict a ham sandwich. It doesn't mean anything about a persons guilt or innocence.

NewNNfor2017 Sun 15-Jan-17 19:47:49

There are a lot of checks and balances in the UK.

Firstly, the CPS has to decide whether a charge is in the public interest AND that there is a likelihood of conviction.

Then, if a case reaches trial, the judge can order the jury to find the defendant not guilty. Or refuse a guilty verdict that is not unanimous.

It is my perception (and I did work in a related field for a while) that more guilty men walk free than innocent men are found guilty, here in the UK.

CubanHeels Sun 15-Jan-17 19:52:54

Google the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven, OP.

PaulAnkaTheDog Sun 15-Jan-17 19:55:58

In current times there is a massive problem with the CSI effect. People who have watched inaccurate shows and think they understand how DNA evidence etc. work. It's dangerous. As much as shows are completely dramatised you do have to realise that the US and UK justice systems are very different. Ours is a lot fairer imo.

PaulAnkaTheDog Sun 15-Jan-17 19:59:03 CSI effect

DaftJelly Sun 15-Jan-17 19:59:18

And also, (same episode) why on Earth would you want to send your kids to a school you've threatened their way into? confused

EweAreHere Sun 15-Jan-17 20:06:09

At least most of the American court systems are visible to the public.

The secret family courts in the UK are VERY worrisome and there seems to be a lot of abuse of power there.

Catsize Sun 15-Jan-17 20:06:46

Agreed embarrassing. The 'one person's word against another' cases are particularly awful as people have stopped listening. No, there isn't CCTV. Or fingerprints. Or whatever. Please defer to your ears and common sense. So frustrating...

WankingMonkey Sun 15-Jan-17 20:10:49

Memphis three is a good search if you are interested in this stuff. I still don't know where I stand on it as I watched the 'paradise lost' documentary which was very convincing (as is the fact that those accused are now free...) but apparently there was actual evidence.

Long story short, seems 3 people were convicted on the 'confession' of one who may have also had mental problems. Police coached the confession he originally said they went to the river in the morning, police convinced him throughout the interview that it was actually at night, and so on.

If you search the documentary though, please be aware that there is actual police tape footage on it and right at the start you see the actual corpses of children...not even in bags or anything...very graphic. Skip 3 mins or so to avoid this.

dahliaaa Sun 15-Jan-17 20:11:36

I always believed in the British justice system - but no longer since having involvement in a civil case where someone was basically allowed to systemically destroy someone else's life because they had the money behind them to do it (the burden of proof in civil cases is 'on the balance of probabilities rather than 'beyond all reasonable doubt.')
I still can't believe that someone can get away with behaving so maliciously if they have enough money to do it.

WhatsThatBangingNoise Sun 15-Jan-17 20:11:39

I worked in forensics for over a decade, and my experience is that the CSI effect is mostly juries expecting there to be much more forensic evidence than there is. Because on TV, there's always forensics, but in real life, a good 90% of the time there's no evidence to recover, and when there is, it's normally not the one thing that links everything together, but a couple of pieces which might indicate a certain series of events.

The number of times when it's actually a DNA profile, with a gazillion to one match probability, is still quite rare.

My bigger concern is that forensics was moved out of the police forces in the 90s precisely because of miscarriages of justice like the Birmingham six, when the evidence of the police employed forensic scientists was found to be incorrect.

Following the closure of the FSS in 2012, a lot more forensics is being done in-house by police forces, in labs which don't have the proper ISO accreditation. It's only a matter of time, I think, before we see another batch of miscarriages of justice, whether due to poor scientific practice, or pressure being put on scientists to find the 'right' result.

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