You Can’t Handle The Truth!

Decades ago turning on the television was a race at 6 PM each evening to host what would be the nightly headline. Of all the media segments, it seemed, as if all the major networks were delivering the same news stories injecting its interviews or overlapping interviewing at press conferences. There was an overall sense of trust in the media that the information we received was the truth without bias or political leanings. However, the most significant part of American journalism was that all people, regardless of political compass, seemed restrained enough to invoke his/her part of a discourse by not forming a quick opinion until all of the evidence, over time, had been delivered.

Today journalism isn’t what it used to be. Instead, the art of journalism extends to anyone with a laptop, cell phone, and blog to post anything or whatever they want without much need for articulation or fact-finding. The death of trust in the media came to an abrupt halt once the internet took over. American culture and society have shifted from print newspapers, magazines, and credible orators or writers towards an a la carte version of subscription-based or safe-space journalism. I would be willing to assert that our knowledge base of reporting only the facts and what was said rather than injecting our thoughts are perhaps a critical reason that the free press isn’t open anymore to seek an unbias delivery. It has become chaos driven by entertainment-based journalism so that media sustains its membership somewhat like a drug with adverse effects. Media, along with public policy, has shifted from a balance of compromise towards a social trust barrier that no matter how much evidence there is to support one thing, we believe the opposite entirely.

Social trust is a belief in the honesty, integrity and reliability of others – a “faith in people.” It’s a simple enough concept to describe. But it’s never been easy to figure out who trusts, or why

When America Online and CompuServe introduced instant messaging on computers, we witnessed the first-hand scope of what the future of news would be. When CNN began its cable news network and launched the scroll at the bottom of the television screen our attention was no longer on the actual news, but we suddenly became ADHD candidates for absorbing information without synthesis for what is fact versus bias. When Facebook and other social media companies began sorting how data would be disseminated and delivered to individuals, it perhaps then was the reason many credible news agencies faltered, and print media eventually died. Our confirmation bias began to shift that news media took too long or wasn’t instantaneous. Therefore, people texting, posting on social media (with video clips), and presenting its version of accounts must be the truth because it’s the first to break the story in a live format. Society no longer cares about the fact because there is no need incentive to becoming truthful by American standards anymore. Politics has created a deep divide in America that the truth is only relevant if you belong to “our way” of thinking or diplomacy.

Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses. It is a type of cognitive bias and a systematic error of inductive reasoning.

Some may suggest that “all products have a shelf life” and are replaceable to the next new thing. The problem is that the next best thing isn’t actually our best delivery for the truth or truth. I would argue that our lives are too filled with news instead of stories of how to remedy the problem. As a society, we are entertained with emotion and reality measurements to either celebrate or vilify the images we see on our smartphone, in media, or splashed on a television screen. All it takes is less than 15 seconds of a story, and society has managed to make up its mind in an armchair jury fashion as if they have all the evidence they require. It is a scary indication of how humanity has suddenly reinvigorated the verso pollice as its measure to rate other human beings without much fact-finding or critical decision making. Our minds have become the outsource of anyone behind and camera, keyboard, or microphone.

If America or the rest of civilization in a globalized world intends to become diplomatic and end repression, hunger, crime and justice reforms, violence, and begin growing virtuous to all of humanity with equal effort. It must start to think critically from all sides and embrace an ear of understanding to become better citizens for all instead of self — humanity isn’t entertainment of suffering or scorn. Hopefully, we have grown mentally as a society since the ancient Rome days?

Pollice verso or verso pollice is a Latin phrase, meaning “with a turned thumb”, that is used in the context of gladiatorial combat. It refers to the hand gesture or thumbs signal used by Ancient Roman crowds to pass judgment on a defeated gladiator.

Crime Does Pay – if you work for the prosecution

If you think that crime doesn’t pay? Think again. The criminal justice system in America is perhaps the most well-financed institution of government anywhere in the world. In fact, to provide how well funded criminal justice inquiry alone is probably is to reflect on previous Presidential investigations ranging from Watergate to the Bill Clinton affair. There is no expense cap on how much money is spent. But take a moment and try to imagine how prosecutors in courts across America with sometimes unlimited resources don’t try to locate the truth? Instead, it seems to be to find the win. Many cases uncovered over past decades by advocacy organizations or third-party investigators have witnessed an alarming trend that prosecutors, despite evidence that could significantly deteriorate a case or allow an innocent person to be free, insists on plea bargains and continuing the cases all in the name of winning. It makes absolutely no sense. Or does it? Perhaps the art of winning a claim has no repercussions because the way policy and law protect prosecutors and the state.

Prosecutorial immunity is the absolute immunity that prosecutors in the United States have in initiating a prosecution and presenting the state’s case. “Firming up what had long been held as common practice, the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976 ruled in Imbler v. Pachtman that prosecutors cannot face civil lawsuits for prosecutorial abuses, no matter how severe.” Prosecutors have qualified immunity in other activities such as advising police and speaking to the press.

When the Duke Lacrosse case made headlines all across living rooms, we listened to Nancy Grace of CNN vilify a university rape culture of athletes taking advantage of a poor African American woman by violently raping her over and over. The news was enough to make anyone angry that such alleged activity would take place. However, as the evidence unfolded, there became significant cracks on both the police, the prosecution, and witness, and the overall method in which the case had been investigated from the start. Instantly, the news splashed released from police reports already created the most damaging evidence against the accused where they will be forever known as the “Duke Lacross players accused of rape”. In fact, there was no rape at all! To make matters worse; Nancy Grace never made a formal apology to the team, coach, or university for her brash and unfiltered scorn of something that didn’t happen. Nancy simply moved on to the next big story in her unapologetic manner. However, we do see the same tactics being used over and over each week in the news by prosecutors, police, and the media. The difference is maybe that there was a Lacrosse team whereas most rape or sexual assault cases involve only one on one allegations. Mostly, the team story was scripted. It was a validation of truth by a group of men with the same story backed with evidence, whereas one versus one in other cases does not have such luxuries. Therefore, prosecutors don’t really care if the truth is out there. It becomes an art of only finding a win for the prosecution.

The prosecutor is an administrator of justice, a zealous advocate, and an officer of the court. The prosecutor’s office should exercise sound discretion and independent judgment in the performance of the prosecution function.

There are naturally good people and good prosecutors. But there is a stigma all across America that prosecutors are elected people that need reelection to maintain and keep their jobs. Doesn’t it seem a bit odd that we never hear in the media where a prosecutor discover evidence that may set a person free and perhaps convict the false accuser? This never happened in the Duke Lacross case and didn’t seem that it will ever happen in other courtrooms across America. Doing so, by the voices of prosecutors and lawyers would place the judicial system in a tailspin. Perhaps that is what our nation requires? A pursuit of the truth – so help us, God. Justice reforms aren’t about tearing down the judicial system. Reforms are about the discovery of the truth to align the field evenly so that justice for all prevails.

Perhaps another issue regarding justice reforms may begin with how the media reports and could sway the public from a fair trail by disclosing too much information — reigning the press in a bit with regards to public records and judicial matters aren’t silencing the media. Instead, it allows a cooling period so that both sides are protected. Under the current system, the victims are ALWAYS protected while the accused is splattered across airwaves and social media in nanoseconds. We ought to change that system for the sake of justice reforms and perhaps restorative justice.

More than 90 percent of state and federal criminal convictions are the result of guilty pleas, often by people who say they didn’t commit a crime.

Again, the state and prosecution have an unlimited resource of funding at its disposal. Yet we have “backlogs” of DNA testing, cases where plea deals are often 85% or higher of most case settlements, decades later evidence discovered or unearthed in storage rooms long forgotten by police agencies, and advocacy groups without much funding at all uncovering questionable evidence that could have allowed a person to be free. It is disconcerting, especially in a country where parties are required to swear upon a bible or affirm, they are telling the truth before a court. However, this policy is not extended to prosecutors to affirm or swear they are telling the truth. They don’t have to because they will always have immunity. Doesn’t seem right, does it? But it is your system of government. So, what are you going to do about it?

Ethics of Undercover Stings

Today I spoke with a neighbor about what I do as a researcher, student, and advocate for justice reform. I summed my duties by this phrase. “I learn, apply, research, and continue to learn about the cause and effects of criminal justice by applying a dialog of reason, discourse, and compromise.” My neighbor responded with, “that sounds complicated.” I replied, “it sure is because there is no easy way to explain it.” We continued to talk more openly, and she finally shared a story about someone she knows that is currently incarcerated. She began to escalate her tone because she felt the sentence her friend received was excessive and unfairly applied. I chimed in to say, “what would have been fair?” She paused but couldn’t provide an answer. Instead, she said, “all I know is his sentence was too much and not in line for the crime he committed.”

I then began sharing the stories of many people currently on the sex offender registry. I started a story about the thousands of registrants that were caught up in police sting operations of underage porn or similar circumstances. I began explaining that “police posed as an underage person, but there was no underage person harmed or physically present. Sure, the intent may have been to meet an underage person, but nobody was harmed. However, the individual is listed either for life or a period for a crime that could have happened, but in actuality didn’t because it was a crafted operation to net people.” She began to understand those sex offenses are often not offenses at all. Instead, it is a method to target a crime with deception but to charge individuals with an age bracket of a fictitious person. It is as if someone in authority creates an operative of a “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle” but gives that character an age with a mental underlying and false image, those netted have pedophilic tendencies. Naturally, law enforcement nor district attornies attempt to do their part to educate the public better. In fact, it could be assumed that both law enforcement and district attorneys encourage such thoughts and rhetoric? However, society only sees teenage even if the person is of legal adult age but from the viewpoint of society, not the perpretrator, the teen age is viewed as early teen ages. The net has been cast to capture as many potential people as a threat to communities because the actor is posing as a 15-year-old, but in actuality, there is no 15 year old at all. Instead, the actor is a 37-year-old police officer targeting any age possible through the internet. Eventually, something will be caught in the net, exposed, and criminally charged. While the operation intends to capture illegal underage solicitations the act alone brings ethical question if the person accused could in actuality be targeted by a guilty plea of a person that is not actually 15, but 37? Sure, it is a stretch of the imagination. But if illegal drugs test not to be unlawful or harmful, arent the charged dropped? This may be orange to apple issue, but I certainly would like to understand how we can return to ethical behaviors on both sides of the justice coin.

Law enforcement officials are expected to comply with a code of ethics outlining general guidelines to ethical behavior of police professionals. To be effective, the code of ethics should become part of each officer’s demeanor and officers should learn to live and think ethically in order to avoid conflicting behaviors. The failure by police professionals to act ethically could result in the loss of public trust, jeopardize investigations, or expose agencies or departments to liability issues.

Naturally, I am not attempting to justify that underage solicitation is not severe. I am only raising the issue that I find it puzzling that a person that is not an actual age is being charged for solicitation of age – even with electronic evidence. It would seem more prudent and perhaps ethical that the criminal charge would be attempted solicitation of a minor because no real minor was present. Other charges could be escalated if there was indeed an actual minor present and naturally if other indiscretions occurred, then additional charges would be applicable. All I am suggesting is a better truth in reporting scheme.

There will always be water-cooler debates about how laws should be enforced or applied. There is no real clear answer or remedy to tackle these issues that appear to be ordinary day by day. However, these are the discussions that we should be having about criminal justice reforms and how to perhaps recodify our policies.

Charge stacking” is a process by which police and prosecutors create a case with numerous charges or numerous instances of the same charge to convince the defendant that the risk of not pleading guilty is intolerable.

Lastly, laws and policies seem to be stacked by the prosecution as a universal benefit. An example is when an initial charge is introduced at the highest felony charge possible to dwindle for a potential plea bargaining agreement. Additionally, many prosecutors will stack charges by adding other unnecessary charges to accompany additional charges. It is somewhat similar to a drug charge, but adding a paraphernalia charge on top of distribution with the intent to do something else mambo-jumbo. The court goes through a gambit of offers to scale back the charges as if it is benefiting the defendant? Not true! It is always helping the prosecution because they will always have the leverage to play outside the rules of law to get their way. Similar to how underage sex sting operations are handled. It’s a big lie with the intent to sell a fear that never happened. It is perhaps something we should also be discussing how to return a bit of truth into criminal justice reforms?

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