Ted Frank has passed along happy news for Jesse Friedman, who was wrongfully convicted of child molestation. (Watch Capturing the Friedmans.) There's no question that Jessee Friedman was innocent, that he was wrongfully prosecuted, and that the trial court conspired with the prosecution to convict him.
Many will will praise the appellate court's opinion. We'll all toast the system. We'll also ignore some important facts:
- There is nothing preventing what happened to Jesse Friedman from happening today.
- It's more likely that a man will be falsely convicted of child molestation.
- The prosecutor who falsely prosecuted him will never be punished.
- The judge who conspired with the prosecutor will never be punished.
- Nothing will change.
The criminal justice system is demoralizing, and some would say that I should lighten up. Enjoy the "victories" when you can. Toast this decision. Have a nice glass of wine. Forget that nothing will change, and that the climate for false convictions has gotten worse.
I'd love to not sound "cynical," and yet everything I've said is true. Read these posts about White v. McKinley. The detective and prosecutor who framed an innocent man kept their jobs.
The system could be changed to prevent wrongful convictions. Prosecutors, for example, could actually be held accountable for misconduct. Courts usually don't even identify unethical prosecutors by name in the judicial opinion - lest someone Googling the prosecutor learn about the misconduct. Here is a list of honest-to-god unethical prosecutors. None of them have received any discipline.
I'd rather be cynical than live in a fool's paradise. The Friedman opinion changes nothing. Until judges commit to stopping the next Friedman, there is nothing to celebrate.