TOK How do these considerations (of age, identity) play a role in convictions? Are there ever justifications for falsely sentencing a man to death? If not, is it at least understandable?
TOK Summer Homework
The thin blue line
Adams’ lawyer said the state didn’t want to convict a young boy with his whole life ahead of him. They were much more willing to convict an older outsider. How do these considerations (of age, identity) play a role in convictions? Are there ever justifications for falsely sentencing a man to death? If not, is it at least understandable?
Many countries set age of criminal responsibility at which juveniles become liable to the penalties of law. In the countries that use the death penalty, it is not permitted for a person who was less than 18 years old at the time of the crime although they commit adult enough crimes. On the average, juvenile offenders are sentenced less severely than adults who commit similar crimes because they are considered to be less mature and blameworthy and have greater capacity for reform. In addition, more serious sentences are given to offenders who have little education, low incomes and hold inferior jobs or no jobs than similar offenders who are well educated with good jobs. This means judgment is, to a greater or lesser extent, susceptible to bias. In any cases, however, it cannot be justified to sentence an innocent person to death. It is not understandable at least to execute wrongfully convicted people because mistake in judgment cannot be corrected and justice system cannot make the person come back to life after death.
Most of the prosecution’s case rested on eyewitness testimony. Is this enough evidence to convict a man? Was there any other evidence to support or refute the testimony? To what extent should or can eye witness testimony be used in court cases?
Eyewitness testimony is not enough evidence to convict a suspect. First of all, people’s memories are not very accurate. Not only can people miss some details in a scene but can also recall what never occurred. Therefore, Testimony should never be regarded as reliable evidence. Even if people are telling you what they sincerely believe to be the truth, it is always possible that they could be mistaken. In addition to this, eyewitness can give false testimony, just like what happened to Adams. One of eyewitnesses, Emily Miller pointed Adams out in court as the man who was at the scene, though she initially told police that the man she had seen appeared to be Mexican or a light-skinned African American. And a robbery charge dealt by the same judge against her daughter was dropped after her testimony. It is obvious that she is an interested witness. This shows us that relying completely on eyewitness testimony to resolve court cases is extremely risky. It should be supported by any other physical evidence like fibers, DNA and fingerprints to prove the truth of the case and not to lead wrongful conviction.
This is a preview of the whole essay
How does the testimony of Teresa Turko (the murdered police officer’s partner) change over time? What causes this? Which of her accounts should be believed, if any? What does this say about the nature of human memory?
Teresa Turko testified in court that she had not seen the killer clearly, but that his hair was the color of Adams’s. She also said that the killer wore a coat with a fur collar. Harris had such a coat, but Adams did not. She, however, said that she had not seen the killer under the state of hypnosis. She provides inconsistent testimony because over time, her memory has changed and has been distorted by her expectations. Under Texas state law, Harris is ineligible for the death penalty because he is a minor. Adams is the only one against whom she could give vent to her anger. Her memory is distorted to fit with the unconscious wish to revenge on her husband’s death, she has illusory memory of the suspect’s hair color. Our memories do not correspond directly to reality. They are determined by our expectation and emotional states. Therefore, her testimony derived from hypnotic examination is accurate and reliable because hypnotized state enable people to be in a flat emotional state.
Trial by fire
How do the eyewitness accounts in this case change over time? Why do they change? What does this suggest about perception, emotion and reason. How do these three interact in this case? To what extent should or can we trust perception, emotion and reason in the criminal justice system? Should or can we put more emphasis on or more weight on one over the others?
According to the initial firefighters’ reports, Willingham was so hysterical and Father Monaghan, a policeman chaplain, reported that Willingham was devastated and risked his life to go into the burning house. After Willingham became the prime suspect, their testimony changed. They testified against him, saying that he had not appeared very concerned. Diane Barbee, a neighbor said that he could have gone back to rescue his children and did not, saying that there had not been a lot of smoke. Monaghan said that Willingham was in complete control. This suggests that our perceptions are not entirely determined by what our senses detect. They are also determined by what we expect and what we believe. Perception is dependent upon expectation and emotional states. Therefore, testimony should never be regarded as reliable evidence. Faulty eyewitness testimony is the leading cause of wrongful conviction. Rather than relying on witness testimony, jurors need to try to perceive and understand physical and scientific evidence to make admissible judgment.
It is often difficult to authentically reconstruct the physical setting and circumstances of a past event. How can one create a reliable picture of past events? Examine at least two ways this is done in this case. How is this similar to the work of historians?
In Lewis’s case, the physical setting is reconstructed by refurbishing the same house with the same kind of carpeting, curtains and furniture. However, it is difficult to do such expensive experiment in every case. To reconstruct the past event, Dr. Hurst used all available information and performed scientific tests. At first, he examined and analyzed Vasquez’s testimony, a floor of plan of the house and photos of the front porch taken before the fire where a charcoal grill was sitting. They provide information on the circumstances at the time the fire occurred. Dr. Hurst also performed a test in his garage to verify if the ‘brown stains’ of Willingham’s front porch were evidence of liquid accelerant. Based on experimental evidence and analysis, he concluded that there was no evidence of arson and it was an accident fire caused by the heater or fault electrical wiring. In much the same way historians reconstruct the past using evidence such as relics and written documents.
Compare and contrast Vasquez and Hurst's techniques, practices and processes. How are they similar and how are they different? What generalizations can you make about justifying a claim or a position? How can a system help or hinder this process?
Both Vasquez and Hurst examined the evidence to determine the cause of the fire using their own knowledge, but drew opposite conclusions. Vasquez identified indicators of an intentional fire such as pour patterns, puddle configurations, burn marks on the wall and cracked glass. He concluded the fire had been set intentionally with a liquid accelerant poured over the house. Samples from the house were taken for testing and one of them returned positive for lighter fluid. Lacking professional knowledge in chemistry, Vasquez investigated the burned house relying on the unverified technique learned from old-timers. In other words, he concluded that the fire was caused by arson because it looked like arson. In contrast, Dr. Hurst, a recognized expert on combustion and explosion, examined his case based on scientific evidence and found that the same indicators were present in natural and accidental fire. He also found that the lighter fluid by the porch did not come from arson but from the barbecue grill. However, Board of pardons and paroles denied Willingham’s request, though they received Hurst’s records in time. None of the fifteen members read the report. The board of pardons and paroles ignored scientific evidence and allowed the execution to go on. This case shows us how significant for justice system to use scientific evidence and approach for preventing wrongful conviction.
Compare and contrast the roles of ordinary citizens and ‘authorities’ in criminal justice. Keep in mind there are a variety of roles, of both ordinary citizens and authorities. Specifically address Elizabeth Gilbert’s role in this case? To what extent and in what role or capacity should or can authority shape and direct the criminal justice system?
The criminal justice system exists to deter and prevent crimes. The police, probation, courts and corrections are all part of the criminal justice system. The main role of the criminal justice system is to investigate crimes, to prosecute individuals who violate laws, and to punish offenders. In addition to this, the criminal justice system develops programs designed to rehabilitate a criminal offender. One of the noticeable features of the criminal justice system is that its whole operation depends on the decisions and actions of ordinary citizens. Citizens play many roles in the criminal process. First, citizens play a substantial role in detecting and reporting crime. Police investigation and evidence gathering depend heavily on the citizens as witness and victims of crime. Another role of citizens in the criminal justice system is serving as jurors and participating in court as witness. Citizens also work as volunteers and paid workers in criminal justice agencies and in organizations. In this case, Gilbert played a pivotal role in proving Willingham’s innocence. This shows how important public participation is to deliver justice and increasing public participation and cooperation in the criminal process is necessary to make a fair and effective criminal justice system.