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After the "Exoneration" Comes....


......the conviction.  For the same murder, and via a guilty plea, no less.  This gem was courtesy of the Innocence Project, which now might want to consider re-naming itself the Not All That Innocent Project.

Here are the first three paragraphs of today's AP story:

A Texas man who spent 21 years in prison for murder pleaded guilty to the same crime on Friday, three years after he was freed from prison and granted a new trial by DNA evidence that showed his original conviction was tainted.

Clay Chabot was sentenced to time served under an agreement that allows prosecutors to claim a conviction and the defendant to go home. He was taken into custody by sheriff's deputies but was expected to be processed out quickly.

The 51-year-old pleaded guilty to murdering Galua Crosby, who was found in her Garland home tied up and gagged with three gunshot wounds to the head. Prosecutors portrayed it as a drug deal gone bad.

The whole story is here.

Moral of story:  Abolitionists were willing to lie for at least a decade about Roger Keith Coleman, and some things never change.


I think the blog post merits a bit of criticism. It's difficult to see what the post adds to a sharp discussion of the issues raised by this particular case. Rather, it seems a shot at the Innocence Project, an effort which has freed decidedly innocent people from prison. I certainly don't agree with all the positions of that organization, and I'd be willing to bet it has its share of true believers, but at the end of the day, it's an organization that probably deserves more than a snide comment because, lo and behold, a person whose conviction obviously had some issues, decides to walk away a free man instead of fighting to clear his name. I agree that this case raises troublesome issues of the quantum of evidence needed to undo a criminal conviction, and that is an item worthy of discussion and serious examination by the courts. (By the way, I am still disgusted by the House case. I think a guilty man got away with it.) However, even if you believe that the Texas justice system should not have undone this conviction, and I agree that this case is probably an example of a conviction that should not have been undone, I don't think you can fault an organization for investigating the evidence in this case and bringing it to the attention of the courts. I don't see any reason why the justice system shouldn't welcome critical examination of cases. Mistakes do get made, and it's nice to see them fixed.

I will readily admit that I am not intimately familiar with all of the positions of the Innocence Project, so I am happy to be corrected, but I don't think the Innocence Project deserves to be lumped into the same boat as those who foisted the Roger Coleman fraud.

The Innocence Project knowingly contributes, and to my knowledge takes no affirmative steps to rebut, the false idea that the prisons are bulging with innocent people and that dozens (at least) of innocents have been days if not hours away from execution because prosecutors routinely hide and/or manufacture evidence, judges are shills, jurors are morally what-me-worry wahoos, and the entire country is a racist cauldron just chomping to join the lynching party.

So far as I know, the Project itself does not say these things out loud and using exactly that language. But it's up to its ears in creating a wildly false impression about the administration of justice in this country and the death penalty in particular. The press won't call them on it for the same reason it won't call out (or even identify) the DPIC as an abolitionist partisan: The press likes their message, so anything goes (and plenty gets hidden).

I agree with you to this extent: Barry Scheck is no Richard Dieter and the Innocence Project is no DPIC. (I think Scheck is a pretty honest guy). But I believe you overlook, or too readily forgive, one important but central fact about the Innocence Project. It deliberately contributes to undermining the moral confidence needed to maintain public support for the DP. It is not just the DPIC that throws around the word "exoneration" intending to lead the public to believe that so-called "exonerated" persons had zip to do with the murder when, in fact, and as it could not help knowing, quite often no such thing is true.

Contrary to virtually uniform press accounts, the Innocence Project is not infallible, nor is it, to my way of thinking, a sacred cow, correcting the routinely evil deeds of the prosecution and the moral backwardness of the citizenry. Like every other organization, it has the defects of its virtues. One of them is overselling its point of view. This story shows that. It is for that reason I put it up here. I haven't seen it get a lot of play elsewhere.

Fair enough. I do believe that there is a bit of egg on the face of the Innocence Project here, but it's hard to see what else it could have done in this particular case. Was the Innocence Project wrong for bringing this evidence to the courts' attention? Was it wrong for arguing that the conviction should be overturned? Perhaps, but those positions aren't unreasonable ones. And if you don't think that it was wrong to do so, it's difficult to see the basis for the criticism in the post. A lighter touch may have been more called for.

I don't think that pointing out that liberal re-examinations of criminal convictions are going to result in false negatives, and I don't think it's wrong to point out that the Innocence Project may have gotten a guilty man a break. However, it's certainly defensible to consider the possibility that a plea of guilty in this case may be the result of the guy not wanting to risk further incarceration rather than true guilt. An innocent man in Mr. Chabot's shoes would be incentivized to take the plea Watkins offered. (I think Chabot is guilty, by the way.)

I wholeheartedly agree that the Innocence Project is not a sacred cow. Like any other organization, it has its flaws, and it's certainly worth calling them out on a case like this, and the press clearly doesn't do its job (of course, that's not the Innocence Project's fault). But you compared the organization to those who peddled the Roger Coleman lie, but then conceded that Scheck is no Dieter. Well, if he's no Dieter, then why does the Innocence Project get the Dieter-treatment? You insinuated that the Innocence Project is an organization of liars. Is that really how you wanted to put it?

federalist and Bill Otis each have meritorious points.

Perhaps the upshot is that an organization that fashions itself as "doing the work of the angels" should be more circumspect about who they represent and on whom they choose to apply their saintly imprimatur.

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