The Charlotte Observer: Editorial: If it takes cheating, its not justice

You don’t want me on your jury.

I should probably know better, but deep in my noodle is the belief that if the cops pick you up, the grand jury indicts you, the prosecutor builds a case and you wind up in court, you were probably up to something.

Introduce some scientist with a bulging forehead to testify that – after parsing evidence with magnifier and isotope – you were definitely up to something, and I’m about ready to vote.

Morons like me fill jury boxes across the land, and we’re experts on crime. We watch forensic whodunits, common as car commercials on TV.

We know there is no higher calling than crime-scene analyst, those heroic – and occasionally buxom – nerds who can coax a blueprint for murder from a single strand of hair.

We know how they can drop a fingernail in an infallible machine and then, chonka-chonka-chonka, out spews an instant report pointing the finger at an unlikely suspect, who winds up in handcuffs and ultimately before the jury.

That’s why this scandal in the state crime lab is a good thing.

It reminds us that there can be crooks on both sides of the law.

Technicians who help authorities bend the evidence to tip justice’s scale not only violate an ethical standard, they steal the public’s confidence in the legal system.

No graver duty does our government perform than taking the liberty of a citizen, and there is no graver injustice than taking it from one who is innocent.

It doesn’t matter that it might have been done for the best of intentions – that investigators need a little help from the referee to put away a defendant they are convinced is guilty.

Nor does it matter that it might have been done out of simple sloppiness.

A Charlotte detective is in time-out right now after admitting that he tossed his notes in the high-profile case of accused cop-killer Demeatrius Montgomery.

He didn’t just ditch some scrawls that might possibly have been of some use to Montgomery’s defenders – he destroyed evidence that calls into question the discipline of the entire homicide unit.

Anyone sitting in judgment in this or any similar case is now well-advised to wonder whether the keepers of justice are worthy of our trust. Without public confidence, the system doesn’t work.

Those looking into the various missteps need to be mindful that we expect the highest standard in our justice system.

Because the stakes are so high, people who collude to violate the rights of the public should be treated like criminal conspirators, meaning it would be appropriate for them to wind up in court.

And not as “expert” witnesses.

And, no, they wouldn’t want me on their jury.

«If it takes cheating, its not justice

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