You folks might remember certain high-profile trials that have gone on recently where juries delivered the “wrong” verdict. They didn’t, in fact. They delivered the best verdict they could based on the information they were given, which is not even remotely the same as what we in the general public have access to. I’m thinking most recently about the George Martin trial and the recently mistrialed Michael Dunn case. I think in both of these cases, as well as in a variety of other high-profile cases where the “wrong” verdict was reached, the real problem wasn’t bad courts, bad juries, racism or anything like that. No, the real problem is prosecutorial overreach.
Prosecutorial overreach is what happens when you have a prosecutor, especially an elected one and especially on a high-profile case, who is under intense pressure to bring back a strong, hard, tough verdict. One that sends a message that X county in Y state isn’t a place to do what this person did! One that, incidentally, also pleases the public and increases the odds of reelection. This prosecutor gets stars in their eyes, reaches for the Moon, and takes a case where they could have gotten a guilty verdict on a lesser charge, like manslaughter or second-degree murder, and instead pushes, and fails, to get one for something like first-degree murder. That is exactly what may have happened in the Dunn case.
Now this isn’t anything illegal or anything like that. It’s not like the Duke “rape” case, where there was massive misconduct, and crimes, committed by a desperate prosecutor. But it is nevertheless a bad thing. If George Martin or Michael Dunn had been convicted of slightly lesser crimes, people would still bitch and moan, but not quite as much, and there would be, for most people, a sense of justice being done.
But now instead of at least some justice being done, we have none in the case of Martin and little in the case of Dunn. And so certain people get to wring their hands and decry how unfair the system is. And so the cycle continues. All because some prosecutors reached for the Moon when, frankly, a stable, low-Earth orbit would have been enough.