Silent Killer: the good faith exception to the Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule

By Patricia Padurean

Aggravating though the criminal justice system can be, it does some things well. If you have had a run-in with our legal system, you know it is a maze of strict rules, time limits, and etiquette.

Watching a trial from the sidelines or CNN makes the process seem byzantine and overly bureaucratic. But it is this way for a reason. We guarantee constitutional protections and by extension justice by following certain procedures. For example, it is not enough to say that a defendant has a right to a speedy trial if we don’t specify what speedy means. This can vary from state to state but often it looks something like this: no more than three days between arrest and arraignment, a trial within 60 days of arraignment. Miss a deadline without first obtaining a time waiver from the defendant and the case is dismissed. (Reality check: this doesn’t happen that often.)

This scenario is what CNN and Fox call “getting off on a technicality.” Never mind that the technicality is the Constitution of the United States.


Given this state of affairs, I’d like to spend a few paragraphs of your busy lives talking about something called the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule and how it contravenes the very nature of constitutional rights.

Before I get to the good faith exception, I should first explain the exclusionary rule. Under the Fourth Amendment, any evidence the police obtains in violation of the Constitution is inadmissible at trial – it must be excluded. Stolen property recovered in a warrantless search, for example. Or drugs found using an invalid search warrant.

That last example is key. Say police suspect that you are dealing drugs. One day they arrest a friend of yours on drug possession charges; while under arrest, your friend says that you and your boyfriend came over and your boyfriend sold your friend pot. So the officers apply for a search warrant of your house, not your boyfriend’s. Well, without getting too far adrift into search and seizure law, there simply is not enough tying your friend’s statement to your specific residence. He never mentioned that you had drugs on you. He never said that he bought drugs at your house. In fact, he specifically said that your boyfriend handed him the drugs. It might be reasonable to assume that you and the boyfriend are in it together, but that still doesn’t create a link to your residence. But police get their warrant, search your house, and find some drugs. Bam. Done deal.

Or is it? Technically, their warrant is invalid because it didn’t establish sufficient nexus between the drug activity and your house. If a court finds that the warrant was invalid, then all the drugs found at your house become inadmissible under the exclusionary rule. And with the drugs goes the prosecution’s case against you. Fly back home, little sparrow!

Are you actually a drug dealer? Let’s say you are. Let’s say you and your boyfriend really do have a pot operation going. Is it fair that your case might get dismissed simply because the police didn’t get a valid search warrant?

Yes it is. This rule may have protected your sorry guilty ass, but we have to follow it to also protect everyone else’s right to privacy from police invasion. If we let one invalid warrant go, then what’s to stop invalid warrants from becoming a new general practice? What’s to protect perfectly innocent people’s houses from unlawful searches? And anyway, until a jury finds you guilty, you are still presumed innocent, no matter how bad the case against you looks.


In all likelihood, however, you would not get off. This is where the good faith exception comes in. The good faith exception to the exclusionary rule goes like this: if police officers had a reasonable good faith belief that the warrant they were executing was valid, even if the search warrant is later found to have been legally defective, the illegally seized evidence is still admissible.

So let’s say Officers Tweedledee and Tweedledum interview your friend with the pot, write up that invalid search warrant themselves, and execute it themselves. You later challenge the warrant as invalid because it didn’t establish sufficient nexus between your friend’s purchasing of the pot and your house. You win, the court finds the warrant invalid. Well, all those drugs the officers found are still coming in. Why? Because Tweedledee and Tweedledum had a “reasonable good faith belief” that the warrant they applied for and executed was valid. They followed their hearts and were wrong but you’re still getting screwed.

Normally, in the criminal justice system, breaking rules and procedure because you were following your [reasonable, good faith] heart is not enough. Because, again, the procedures are there to protect constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms. In this case, however, officers get a free pass.

The landmark good faith exception case, United States v. Leon, justifies this flagrant loophole in constitutional rights by saying 1) if we exclude the evidence, we’re punishing the police officers rather than the magistrates issuing faulty search warrants; and 2) that “indiscriminate application of the exclusionary rule — impeding the criminal justice system’s truth-finding function and allowing some guilty defendants to go free — may well generate disrespect for the law and the administration of justice.” (emphasis added)

First, I don’t personally take too much issue with punishing both the officers and the magistrate who, together, violated a person’s constitutional rights. But more importantly, the second point goes against the very ethos of the criminal justice system. We presume defendants innocent until proven guilty because those who molded the system (our venerated Framers) considered it a worse injustice to occasionally imprison an innocent person than to occasionally let a guilty person go free.

I’d like to suggest things we can do to put an end to the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule. Sadly, the only way it will go away is if the Supreme Court reverses its Leon decision and, along with it, all the case law that followed Leon. So, what can I say? Don’t do drugs. Watch your back. Know your rights.

Let’s Talk About Sex (Offenders)

By Marc Allen

First, let’s put some things on the table. There is wide consensus that sexual assault is under reported. There is some disagreement about just how under reported sexual assault among adults is (and some controversy about how it is defined and measured), but there are good estimates that only about a tenth of sexual abuse against children is ever reported. Abuse against children is especially heinous because of the lifelong harm it can inflict on the survivors and the subsequent costs it imposes on society.

Now, let’s talk about one hugely counterproductive way to deal with sexual assault: public sex offender registries.*

Public registries started appearing in the early 1990s and became ubiquitous, with the help of federal legislation, by the early 2000s. Since then, both the feds and the states themselves have slowly been expanding their registries and adding restrictions to registrants.

There have been a number of good pieces in the last few years critical of public registries. HereHere. And here. But public registries remain popular. Some states have expanded their registries in the last decade and/or added additional restrictions to registrants.

You can imagine why this ratcheting upwards keeps happening.  Being pro sex offender isn’t a terribly popular political stance.  Take geographic bans for example. Once registrants are banned from living or loitering within 500 feet of a school, it’s easy and good politics to to expand 500 feet to 1000 feet (or even 2500 feet).  After that, it’s easy to add daycares, parks, churches, and Chuck E Cheese’s to the list of protected places.

The end result of these geographic bans is that large portions of cities become off-limits.  Densely populated areas are especially bad. Here’s a map of the city of Grand Rapids, blue areas are within 1000 feet of a school, red areas are within 1000 feet of a day care:

Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 6.37.10 PM

This is crazy for a couple of reasons.  First, there’s no data showing that these kind of “school safety zones” have had any effect on the rates of sexual violence committed against school age children.  Most sexual assaults against children are committed by family or friends.  These geographic bans are based on stereotypes and misplaced fears.

Second, as the map above shows, these policies prevent registrants from living or loitering in huge portions of cities.  Which, turns out, is a good way to make someone more likely to recommit a crime.  When offenders are released from prison, they often have no place to go because friends or family members willing to put them up live within one of these exclusion zones.  Stress and instability are huge drivers of recidivism, and registries create both.  Law and economics researchers have found that public registries can actually make registrants more likely to recommit sexual crimes and consequently decrease public safety.

These safety zones are just one of many requirements with little to no empirical justification.  Some registrants are also required to register for life.  This means that a 18 or 19 year old convicted of certain offenses will face reporting requirements, public monitoring, fees, and housing restrictions into their 70s.  As with other crimes, the likelihood that someone will recommit decreases with age, such that the likelihood of an octogenarian recommitting a sexual offense is only slightly higher than him medalling in Olympic ice dancing. Besides the stats, as Human Rights Watch points out, applying these lifelong restrictions to teenage offenders is wildly unjust.

Anyone who takes sexual violence seriously should be pissed.  The feminist/anti-sexual violence community has common cause here with civil libertarians and the good government crowd.  Public registries allow for the kind of othering that makes people feel like they’ve done something about a problem. In reality we’re ignoring the problem. Public registries are the worst of all worlds. They’re a cop out, they’re expensive, and they’re dumb.

*I’m distinguishing public sex offender registries, where offenders faces are posted on a public website (often with their addresses and places of work), from private registries that only law enforcement agencies can access.  There is some data suggesting that the latter actually do have an effect on recidivism rates, which doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a good idea, but at least puts them in the arena of sane policies we can debate.

What last meals can teach us about the death penalty

By Amanda Grigg

After reading hundreds of articles about the trials, appeals and executions of criminals for my research assistantship I’ve become depressingly familiar with the tradition of reporting on an individual’s last meal. In the US, most states offer individuals on death row the opportunity to choose their last meal. The details of these requests appear in almost every article covering an execution, sometimes incorporated into the article, and surprisingly often as an afterthought, “He was pronounced dead at 12:17 am, following 15 years of appeals and an unwavering assertion of his innocence. In his final words he expressed his love and gratitude to his family. Oh, and his last meal was pecan pie.” I knew this practice existed, I’ve seen it in news coverage before, but reading mentions of last meals back to back to back was different. It made me realize just how weird, and contradictory and depressing the practice is.

Photo from photo essay by Celia Shapiro
Photo from photo essay of prisoner’s last meals by Celia Shapiro

Brent Cunningham has a great essay on last meals in which (among many other things) he traces the tradition back to ancient Greece and Rome, specifically to Roman gladiators who were fed lavish meals before their day in the Coliseum. The public obsession with last meals is much more recent, and probably stems from the shift away from public executions in the US – which has left the public with less opportunity to view executions but no less interest in them. And the media are well aware of this interest. CBS News coverage of last meals describes them pretty accurately as “an enduring, if morbid, source of fascination.” The Huffington Post, covering a website dedicated to last meals, describes them as “fascinating yet creepy.”

Blogs and crime tv website coverage of last meals trends towards morbid curiosity and frivolity. TruTv’s slideshow features mugshots and below, urges viewers to “also check out: hot celebs pretending to eat.” Headline News’ gallery is titled “Gatorade to Lobsters: Serial Killer’s Last Meals” and more disturbingly, features a smug Nancy Grace staring out from the page banner.

enhanced-buzz-wide-19104-1382108706-40
James Reynolds for Amnesty International. Text: “This was Ruben Cantu’s last meal. Executed in 1993. Proved Innocent in 2010.”

There is also work on last meals that is reverent and striking, including Celia A. Shapiro and Mat Collishaw‘s photo essays featured in MotherJones and Time respectively. Recognizing the power of the idea (and images) of the last meal, Amnesty International recently commissioned artist James Reynolds to recreate the last meals of men who were later proven innocent. The meals featured in an anti-death penalty campaign alongside the dates individuals were executed and presumed or proven innocent.

The Last Last Meal

In 2011, Texas, the state with by far the highest number of executions, ended this tradition following the execution of a man who did not eat any of the enormous meal he had requested (it included over ten items, one of which was a pound of bbq). Notably, the inmate in question was Lawrence Brewer, a white supremacist sentenced to death for the gruesome, racially motivated murder of James Byrd Jr. – a murder which motivated the passage of a Texas hate crime law and the Federal Hate Crimes Prevention Act.  Not surprisingly, Brewers final act outraged many, including State Senator John Whitmire, who called on the executive director of the Texas prison agency to end the practice of last meals. Within hours, the prison agency’s executive director had terminated the policy, effective immediately. The New York Times spoke to Whitmire about his opposition, which he said had little to do with cost and state budgets:

“He never gave his victim an opportunity for a last meal…Why in the world are you going to treat him like a celebrity two hours before you execute him? It’s wrong to treat a vicious murderer in this fashion. Let him eat the same meal on the chow line as the others.”

Whitmire was right not to worry about cost, since last meals are rarely as extravagant as they seem. In fact, the last meals published are generally what is requested, not what prisoners actually get. In most states there are limitations on what can be provided. In Florida, last meals can cost no more than $40 and all ingredients must be local. California provides last meals costing up to $50 and Oklahoma (the state with the third most executions) budgets just $15 for last meal provisions. Following the change in Texas policy, Timothy Williams of the Times interviewed a Brian D. Price, a former Texas death row chef who description of his efforts to fulfill last meal wishes is worth quoting in full:

“The Texas Department of Corrections has a policy that no matter what the request, it has to be prepared from items that’s in the prison kitchen commissary. And, like if they requested lobster, they’d get a piece of frozen pollock. Just like they would normally get on a Friday, but what I’d do is wash the breading off, cut it diagonally and dip it in a batter so that it looked something like at Long John Silver’s — something from the free world, something they thought they were getting, but it wasn’t. They quit serving steaks in 1994, so whenever anyone would request a steak, I would do a hamburger steak with brown gravy and grilled onions, you know, stuff like that. The press would get it as they requested it, but I would get their handwritten last meal request about three days ahead of time and I’d take it to my captain and say, “Well, what do you want me to do?” And she’d lay it out for me. I tried to do the best I could with what I had. Amazingly, we did pretty well with what we did have. They are served two hours before they are executed and it is no longer a burger and fries or a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich or whatever they requested. All it is, two hours later, is stomach content on an autopsy report.”

As Price’s experience suggests, the tradition of the last meal is often misrepresented and is inherently counter intuitive. The “choice” of steak or lobster in reality amounts to a choice of reimagined prison staples. And two hours later the privilege of a personalized and (we imagine) comforting last meal is “stomach content on an autopsy report.”

Why Last Meals?

Velma Barfield
From Mat Collishaw’s “Last Meal on Death Row” series

All of this brings  us to the question  of the purpose of last meals. Susan Jacobson reported on the ritual of the last meal following the Texas policy change, asking death penalty scholars and Florida prison officials about the purpose of the last meal. Explanations of the last meal emphasized treating the pre-executed with dignity, and demonstrating the absence of malice on the part of the state. According to Florida prison official Jessica Cary:

Last meals are a way to provide humane treatment in a dignified death-penalty procedure

U of Florida law professor Bob Dekle explained,

“the last meal is part of the process to demonstrate there is no malice on the part of the people who carry out the execution.”

Asked about Texas’s decision to revoke individualized last meals, former death row chef Brian Price echoed these justification:

“No, these people don’t deserve a last meal request, but we as a society have to show that softer side, that compassion. It’s bad enough that we have the death penalty, it’s so archaic, but then to turn around and say, “No, we’re not going to feed you,” just out of pure meanness or something. I don’t know. We have to show that we are not distorting that justice with revenge.”

As these quotes suggest, the mythology surrounding last meals lends an air of dignity to the proceedings, and absolves the state and the people of any appearance of malice, both of which help to clearly set us apart from the individuals we execute. In an article in Law and Society Daniel LaChance argues that allowing (and publicizing) last meals and last words is part of the state’s effort to demonstrate prisoner’s individuality and agency in the face of a penal system that achieves complete control over inmates (think of how rarely inmates physically resist execution). This is necessary if executions are to be retributive because it is difficult to feel catharsis, relief or social solidarity at the execution of someone we had already rendered completely docile and powerless. The last words and last meal re-establish a prisoner’s agency and individuality, demonstrating that they are “self-made monsters” who have chosen the path that led them to execution, and allowing executions to serve their emotional, social purpose.

Photo from Henry Hargreaves' photo series "No Seconds"
Photo from Henry Hargreaves’ photo series “No Seconds”

As LaChance notes, most people facing death row are well aware that their last meal choices will be reported to the media. In participating in these rituals of agency they are thus simultaneously demonstrating individuality (choosing foods that represent them, symbolize the familiar or in the case of the many lobster requests, status) and participating in the process of their own execution (performing an act – requesting their meal – that is vital to the ritual of execution in the United States). Some might actually take some individual pleasure out of their final meal but reports suggest that many find themselves without any appetite. A rare few exercise their limited agency by treating the last meal as an opportunity for religious or political expression – Jonathan Nobles requested the Eucharist. Odell Barnes Jr. asked for “Justice, Equality, World Peace” and Robert Madden asked that his last meal be provided to a homeless person. But of course these requests went unfulfilled.

According to Gallup polling, support for the death penalty is at the lowest it’s been since the Supreme Court instituted a four year moratorium on executions in 1972. It’s still a majority (about 60%), but support seems to be steadily (if slowly) declining. A closer look at the practice of last meals suggests that despite overwhelming historic support for the death penalty, executions must be conducted in a very particular way, must strike a delicate balance, in order to satisfy the public. They must be retributive but not malicious, must simultaneously demonstrate and revoke the agency of the executed, must exhibit mercy but not too much mercy.

The response to recent shortages in the drug cocktail used in lethal injections also reflect the balancing act at work in implementing the death penalty. In this case, the difficulty is one of walking the line between execution and cruel and unusual punishment. Ohio recently executed a man using a new, untested cocktail and according to witnesses the results were horrifying. Andrew Johnson of the Columbus Dispatch reported on what was one of the longest executions in Ohio’s history:

At about 10:33 a.m., McGuire started struggling and gasping loudly for air, making snorting and choking sounds that lasted for at least 10 minutes, with his chest heaving and his fist clenched. Deep, rattling sounds eminated from his mouth. For the last several moments before he was pronounced dead, he was still.

The execution got significant press coverage, and the New York Times claimed that it had renewed the debate over lethal injections.  Because we can kill individuals with a lethal and potentially painful cocktail of drugs, as long as we don’t see them express their pain (or too much pain), as long as their death is quick and quiet. Of course there will always be those who could care less about dignity or mercy, and for them the death penalty doesn’t need to strike any balance other than that of an eye for an eye. In response to the controversy over the Ohio execution Kent Scheidegger, legal director for the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation told the New York Times “O.K., I’ve made snoring noises. What’s not disputed is he got a large dose of sedative. We’ve gotten namby-pamby to the point that we give murderers sedatives before we kill them.”

 

We Are All Criminals

By Patricia Padurean

I don’t know how much time you spend on white supremacist blogs, but they are an education. In anticipation of my first meeting with a client who was both an alleged murderer and a white supremacist, I found Stormfront, a charming forum of “racial realists and idealists.” Though completely unconnected to my client, I fell into a thread about Jewish food. To hear these people tell it, the Jews have almost earned their white people stripes, though some work remains to be done.

HailTheNewDawn put it succinctly and poetically when he wrote:

“I love to eat and cook. I can’t live in a rich man’s house, or drive a rich man’s car, or spend a rich man’s money. I can, however, buy a $25 steak and a $30 bottle of wine, savor the aromas and flavors while looking at a beautiful white woman across the table in my kitchen.

The jews drop a fish into acid and call it cuisine.”

What I expected to encounter when I walked into that cell to meet my client was a bagel-hating aggressive man covered in swastika tattoos whose physiognomy somehow magically betrayed the fact that he was a killer. I certainly didn’t expect a shy man who hid his face in his hands in embarrassment after confessing that instead of having steady girlfriends he has casual sex with multiple women.

More than anything else, that one-hour meeting opened my eyes to how quick we are to jump at the opportunity to judge people going through the criminal justice system. We label defendants as “criminals” long before convictions. Listen to any political debate within any party and you’ll find the audience nodding enthusiastically to wave after wave of spitting diatribes against “dangerous criminals” and the new laws that will keep them off our streets and away from your adorable children. Never mind the fact that they all live on those same streets and have children of their own. No, “criminals” are lurking around every corner, waiting to prey upon you, your family, and your material possessions. They are the comic book villains of American society. But America isn’t a comic book and people charged with or convicted of crimes can’t all be painted with the same brush.

Drug offenses account for just over half of the US prison population, and let’s not kid ourselves that these 100,000 people are all Stringer Bell type criminal masterminds. Basically, if you’ve ever walked down the street with weed in your pocket, there is nothing separating you from the average “dangerous criminal” other than your blind luck at not having been caught. If you’ve ever gotten into an argument on a bus and slapped someone for taking your seat, you have committed a criminal offense. If you have ever stolen an ice cream sandwich from a gas station, the American right and left are out to get you. These are all real cases that I have seen go through the system. Most of these defendants now have criminal records and, as far as the world is concerned, they are the dangerous elements of society. We, the rest of society, strip them of job opportunities and respect, ensuring that the most attractive way they’ll have of getting by is committing more petty crimes which in time, depending on how dire their circumstances are, might escalate into more serious offenses. I’m not saying people who violate criminal statutes are not responsible for their own actions, but we should have a serious look at how our attitudes and actions contribute to this culture of demonization.

Theoretically, our criminal justice system is designed to provide people with due process and then release them cleanly once they have served their time. But with services that allow you to pinpoint who in your neighborhood has a criminal record and precisely which crimes they have been convicted of, we ensure that people’s sentences are never truly over and that we always judge others by the worst choices they have made.

Obviously there are some actually dangerous criminals out there, but the vast majority of cases in the system are piddling little offenses like drug possession because it’s easy to get convictions and District Attorneys can run for re-election on their great numbers with the tagline of being tough on crime and unaccommodating to criminals. And the more this cycle turns, the more it justifies overblown rhetoric about how important it is to separate the criminals from the innocents, like if you were to pour all of society into a beaker, it would separate cleanly into oil and water. The reality is that we all live together and we all break the law together. Perhaps we should not be quite so quick to judge.

Peering through the looking glass of the criminal justice system

By Patricia Padurean

Walking into Department 5 of the Vista courthouse in California, it is hard to resist the urge to cross yourself. Visitors sit in pew-like rows of seats, looking up at a stained glass representation of the California state seal. When the judge walks in, his robe billowing behind him, everybody stands until His Honor grants us permission to be seated. Some of the penitents in the pews are new, some are visiting, most are regulars. They bow their heads. We are in the inner sanctum of the criminal justice system, but the vernacular is overwhelmingly ecclesiastical.

Generally in a church you do not have the looming presence of armed bailiffs so rotund that they have to throw their weight around just to be able to move. In court, these men and women are unavoidable. But it is precisely the ever-present menace of Bailiffs Tweedlee and Tweedledum that highlights the absurdity of the criminal justice system.

Participating in the criminal justice system, whether by choice or in handcuffs, involves stepping into a plane of existence that operates in parallel with the real world. Legal language and logic do not quite map onto normal human language and logic. At every step of the process you have to absorb a new obstacle that challenges and distorts everything you thought you knew about language and reality.

So let’s say one of your friends is a little quirky and a bit of a night owl and instead of doing the normal thing and watching Netflix until 3am, he does chores instead. One evening he decides to mow the lawn. It’s midnight, it’s dark. The neighbor has a dog whose lot in life is not easy. Rover is deaf and as he scampers across the neighborhood backyards, he does not hear the mower coming for him and he is accidentally run over. Your friend, Mr. Insomnia, is charged under your state’s animal cruelty law with killing a domestic animal.

We all know that a criminal defendant is by law considered innocent until proven guilty. We hear this mantra a lot. But if you have ever watched Nancy Grace in her full splendor, you know that the mantra is often disregarded. With stunning regularity, potential jurors admit to thinking that the defendant must have done something wrong or she would not have been arrested and the gears of bureaucracy would not have ground far enough for her to see the inside of a courtroom. The defendant is then generally guilty until proven specifically guilty of something.

If the criminal offense in question has an element of intent, which they typically all do, the jury is charged with deciding whether or not the defendant intended to commit the crime. The law breaks this down into a two-part test comprised of an objective and a subjective half.

The subjective test requires the factfinder to determine the defendant’s mental state at the time of the crime. That’s all fine and good; it rings true that any attempt to enter a person’s mind should be called subjective.

The objective test also tries to determine the defendant’s mental state but it does so by imagining a generic “reasonable man” in the same situation as the defendant. If a reasonable person would have foreseen that mowing the lawn at midnight would result in the violent death of the neighbor’s deaf dog, then obviously the defendant, for all his protesting to the contrary, was clearly out to make a dog smoothie.

The objective test, then, supposedly improves upon the subjective test by determining what was going on in someone’s mind by comparing it with what might hypothetically have been going on in someone else’s mind at the time. There is nothing objective about this; in fact the objective test is twice as subjective as the subjective test! And of course, it is possible to imagine many varieties of a reasonable person, all of whom might have foreseen different consequences of deciding to mow the lawn at midnight.

So let’s assume our defendant has been found guilty of intentionally killing his neighbor’s dog. Criminal convictions not only have the force of law, they also have the force of fact. Once you are found guilty of an offense, in future that offense will be referred to as having objectively happened. But often this is a legal fiction. In our case, Mr. Insomnia accidentally shredded a dog. He knows he didn’t intend for it to happen but from this point forward, as far as the criminal justice system is concerned, he is a willful dog killer.

This type of scenario is admittedly quite rare; however, a large proportion of criminal convictions are plea bargains in which the prosecution offers the defendant the opportunity to plead guilty to a lesser charge than the original conviction. Domestic violence becomes false imprisonment, soliciting a prostitute becomes disturbing the peace. In these cases, any lawyer, judge, jury, or employer who looks at these criminal records will say “Mr. Smith disturbed the peace” when in fact he tried to pick up a hooker or “Mr. Doe imprisoned his family in their home for a week” when in fact he was raping his wife or when perhaps his wife was hitting their children but reported her husband to the police to cover her tracks. These are all very serious issues and behaviors, yet when the justice system treats reality itself like it is fungible, it is difficult not to see criminal justice as a game that you are forced to play but can never hope to win.

Like most institutions, the criminal justice system works well some of the time, and it spends the rest of its time simply existing. To make your living in this system you have to either live in a perpetual state of denial or suspended disbelief. If you squint and tilt your head just so to try to make the two parallel worlds meet, you’ll just wind up cross-eyed and deranged. Nothing is real; Godot will never come.