George Will on Criminal Justice Reform

George Will’s latest column draws attention to Judge Alex Kozinski’s critique of the American criminal justice system.  Here is an excerpt:

The Republican Party, like Sisyphus, is again putting its shoulder to a boulder, hoping to make modest but significant changes in the Electoral College arithmetic by winning perhaps 12 percent of the African American vote. To this end, Republicans need to hone a rhetoric of skepticism about, and an agenda for reform of, the criminal justice system. They can draw on the thinking of a federal appellate judge nominated by Ronald Reagan.

In an article that has stirred considerable discussion since it appeared this past summer in the Georgetown Law Journal, Alex Kozinski of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit provides facts and judgments that should disturb everyone, but especially African Americans, whose encounters with the criminal justice system are dismayingly frequent and frequently dismaying….

Prosecutions are preceded by police investigations. Police, says Kozinski, have “vast discretion” about, among many other things, which leads to pursue and witnesses to interview. They also have opportunities “to manufacture or destroy evidence, influence witnesses, extract confessions” and otherwise “stack the deck against people they think should be convicted.” A woman spent 23 years on death row because of an oral confession she supposedly made during a 20-minute interrogation by a detective who Kozinski says was later shown “to be a serial liar.” The conviction of a man who spent 39 years in prison was based “entirely” on the eyewitness testimony of a 12-year-old who saw the crime from a distance, failed to identify the man in a lineup and was fed information by the police.

Read the whole thing.

Cato will be hosting a debate between Judge Kozinski and Judge J. Harvey Wilkinson next month.  Related post here.