It is refreshing and inspiring that Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has recently made use of his singular power to grant absolute pardons to three wrongfully convicted men.
Bobbie Morman Jr., of Norfolk, spent 22 years in prison though an innocent man. Joey Carter, also of Norfolk, spent 25 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Emerson Stevens, of Lancaster County, served 32 years for a murder committed by someone else. That someone has never been caught because police framed the wrong man.
Pardons and exonerations are bittersweet. On the one hand, the years of hard work by innocence lawyers ultimately pay off, and some measure of justice is found as the wrongfully convicted finally make their dramatic walk out of the prison gates. On the other hand, it is infuriating that our criminal justice system is so broken that bogus convictions happen at all. Innocent lives are destroyed. The guilty roam free. And the police and prosecutors are almost never made to answer for their bad behavior. If the authorities played by the rules, virtually all wrongful convictions could be avoided.
Reforms of this criminal use of the law are overdue. It takes a truly distorted class of abusive prosecution to try to defend mistakes like these. Frankly, “mistakes” is likely a misuse of the word. My life’s experience tells me these folks ended up in jail because lazy, often bigoted, officials made up their minds and then tailored their so-called evidence to suit their prejudice.
Enough! End these practices, now! It’s time that freedom, law-abiding, all those high school civics words pay attention to the truth.