The American Nightmare: The Tyranny Of The Criminal Justice System

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by John Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

How can the life of such a man
Be in the palm of some fool’s hand?
To see him obviously framed
Couldn’t help but make me feel ashamed to live in a land
Where justice is a game.—Bob Dylan, “Hurricane

Justice in America is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Just ask Jeffrey Deskovic, who spent 16 years in prison for a rape and murder he did not commit. Despite the fact that Deskovic’s DNA did not match what was found at the murder scene, he was singled out by police as a suspect because he wept at the victim’s funeral (he was 16 years old at the time), then badgered over the course of two months into confessing his guilt. He was eventually paid $6.5 million in reparation.

James Bain spent 35 years in prison for the kidnapping and rape of a 9-year-old boy, but he too was innocent of the crime. Despite the fact that the prosecutor’s case was flimsy—it hinged on the similarity of Bain’s first name to the rapist’s, Bain’s ownership of a red motorcycle, and a misidentification of Bain in a lineup by a hysterical 9-year-old boy—Bain was sentenced to life in prison. He was finally freed after DNA testing proved his innocence, and was paid $1.7 million.

Mark Weiner got off relatively easy when you compare his experience to the thousands of individuals who are spending lifetimes behind bars for crimes they did not commit.

Weiner was wrongfully arrested, convicted, and jailed for more than two years for a crime he too did not commit. In his case, a young woman claimed Weiner had abducted her, knocked her out and then sent taunting text messages to her boyfriend about his plans to rape her. Despite the fact that cell phone signals, eyewitness accounts and expert testimony indicated the young woman had fabricated the entire incident, the prosecutor and judge repeatedly rejected any evidence contradicting the woman’s far-fetched account, sentencing Weiner to eight more years in jail. Weiner was only released after his accuser was caught selling cocaine to undercover cops.

In the meantime, Weiner lost his job, his home, and his savings, and time with his wife and young son. As Slate reporter journalist Dahlia Lithwick warned, “If anyone suggests that the fact that Mark Weiner was released this week means ‘the system works,’ I fear that I will have to punch him in the neck. Because at every single turn, the system that should have worked to consider proof of Weiner’s innocence failed him.”

The system that should have worked didn’t, because the system is broken, almost beyond repair.

In courtroom thrillers like 12 Angry Men and To Kill a Mockingbird, justice is served in the end because someone—whether it’s Juror #8 or Atticus Finch—chooses to stand on principle and challenge wrongdoing, and truth wins.

Unfortunately, in the real world, justice is harder to come by, fairness is almost unheard of, and truth rarely wins.

On paper, you may be innocent until proven guilty, but in actuality, you’ve already been tried, found guilty and convicted by police officers, prosecutors and judges long before you ever appear in a courtroom.

Chronic injustice has turned the American dream into a nightmare.

At every step along the way, whether it’s encounters with the police, dealings with prosecutors, hearings in court before judges and juries, or jail terms in one of the nation’s many prisons, the system is riddled with corruption, abuse and an appalling disregard for the rights of the citizenry.

Due process rights afforded to a person accused of a crime—the right to remain silent, the right to be informed of the charges against you, the right to representation by counsel, the right to a fair trial, the right to a speedy trial, the right to prove your innocence with witnesses and evidence, the right to a reasonable bail, the right to not languish in jail before being tried, the right to confront your accusers, etc.—mean nothing when the government is allowed to sidestep those safeguards against abuse whenever convenient.

It’s telling that while President Obama said all the right things about the broken state of our criminal justice system—that we jail too many Americans for nonviolent crimes (we make up 5 percent of the world’s population, but our prison population constitutes nearly 25% of the world’s prisoners), that we spend more money on incarceration than any other nation ($80 billion a year), that we sentence people for longer jail terms than their crimes merit, that our criminal justice system is far from color-blind, that the nation’s school-to-prison pipeline is contributing to overcrowded jails, and that we need to focus on rehabilitation of criminals rather than retribution—he failed to own up to the government’s major role in contributing to this injustice in America.

Indeed, while Obama placed the responsibility for reform squarely in the hands of prosecutors, judges and police, he failed to acknowledge that they bear the burden of our failed justice system, along with the legislatures and corporations who have worked with them to create an environment that is hostile to the rights of the accused.

In such a climate, we are all the accused, the guilty and the suspect.

As I document in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we’re operating in a new paradigm where the citizenry are presumed guilty and treated as suspects, our movements tracked, our communications monitored, our property seized and searched, our bodily integrity disregarded, and our inalienable rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” rendered insignificant when measured against the government’s priorities.

Every American is now in jeopardy of being targeted and punished for a crime he did not commit thanks to an overabundance of arcane laws. Making matters worse, by allowing government agents to operate above the law, immune from wrongdoing, we have created a situation in which the law is one-sided and top-down, used as a hammer to oppress the populace, while useless in protecting us against government abuse.

Add to the mix a profit-driven system of incarceration in which state and federal governments agree to keep the jails full in exchange for having private corporations run the prisons, and you will find the only word to describe such a state of abject corruption is “evil.” 

How else do you explain a system that allows police officers to shoot first and ask questions later, without any real consequences for their misdeeds? Despite the initial outcry over the shootings of unarmed individuals in Ferguson and Baltimore, the pace of police shootings has yet to slow. In fact, close to 400 people were shot and killed by police nationwide in the first half of 2015, almost two shootings a day. Those are just the shootings that were tracked. Of those killed, almost 1 in 6 were either unarmed or carried a toy gun.

For those who survive an encounter with the police only to end up on the inside of a jail cell, waiting for a “fair and speedy trial,” it’s often a long wait. Consider that 60 percent of the people in the nation’s jails have yet to be convicted of a crime. There are 2.3 million people in jails or prisons in America. Those who can’t afford bail, “some of them innocent, most of them nonviolent and a vast majority of them impoverished,” will spend about four months in jail before they even get a trial.

Not even that promised “day in court” is a guarantee that justice will be served.

As Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals points out, there are an endless number of factors that can render an innocent man or woman a criminal and caged for life: unreliable eyewitnesses, fallible forensic evidence, flawed memories, coerced confessions, harsh interrogation tactics, uninformed jurors, prosecutorial misconduct, falsified evidence, and overly harsh sentences, to name just a few.

In early 2015, the Justice Department and FBI “formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period…. The admissions mark a watershed in one of the country’s largest forensic scandals, highlighting the failure of the nation’s courts for decades to keep bogus scientific information from juries, legal analysts said.”

“How do rogue forensic scientists and other bad cops thrive in our criminal justice system?” asks Judge Kozinski. “The simple answer is that some prosecutors turn a blind eye to such misconduct because they’re more interested in gaining a conviction than achieving a just result.”

The power of prosecutors is not to be underestimated.

Increasingly, when we talk about innocent people being jailed for crimes they did not commit, the prosecutor plays a critical role in bringing about that injustice. As The Washington Post reports, “Prosecutors win 95 percent of their cases, 90 percent of them without ever having to go to trial…. Are American prosecutors that much better? No… it is because of the plea bargain, a system of bullying and intimidation by government lawyers for which they ‘would be disbarred in most other serious countries….’”

This phenomenon of innocent people pleading guilty makes a mockery of everything the criminal justice system is supposed to stand for: fairness, equality and justice. As Judge Jed S. Rakoff concludes, “our criminal justice system is almost exclusively a system of plea bargaining, negotiated behind closed doors and with no judicial oversight. The outcome is very largely determined by the prosecutor alone.”

It’s estimated that between 2 and 8 percent of convicted felons who have agreed to a prosecutor’s plea bargain (remember, there are 2.3 million prisoners in America) are in prison for crimes they did not commit.

Clearly, the Coalition for Public Safety was right when it concluded, “You don’t need to be a criminal to have your life destroyed by the U.S. criminal justice system.”

It wasn’t always this way. As Judge Rakoff recounts, the Founding Fathers envisioned a criminal justice system in which the critical element “was the jury trial, which served not only as a truth-seeking mechanism and a means of achieving fairness, but also as a shield against tyranny.”

That shield against tyranny has long since been shattered, leaving Americans vulnerable to the cruelties, vanities, errors, ambitions and greed of the government and its partners in crime.

There is not enough money in the world to make reparation to those whose lives have been disrupted by wrongful convictions.

Over the past quarter century, more than 1500 Americans have been released from prison after being cleared of crimes they did not commit. These are the fortunate ones. For every exonerated convict who is able to prove his innocence after 10, 20 or 30 years behind bars, Judge Kozinski estimates there may be dozens who are innocent but cannot prove it, lacking access to lawyers, evidence, money and avenues of appeal.

For those who have yet to fully experience the injustice of the American system of justice, it’s only a matter of time.

America no longer operates under a system of justice characterized by due process, an assumption of innocence, probable cause, and clear prohibitions on government overreach and police abuse. Instead, our courts of justice have been transformed into courts of order, advocating for the government’s interests, rather than championing the rights of the citizenry, as enshrined in the Constitution.

Without courts willing to uphold the Constitution’s provisions when government officials disregard them, and a citizenry knowledgeable enough to be outraged when those provisions are undermined, the Constitution provides little protection against the police state.

In other words, in this age of hollow justice, courts of order, and government-sanctioned tyranny, the Constitution is no safeguard against government wrongdoing such as SWAT team raids, domestic surveillance, police shootings of unarmed citizens, indefinite detentions, asset forfeitures, prosecutorial misconduct and the like.

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Truther's picture

Welcome to the USSA Bitchezzz

falconflight's picture

A jury of your peers is the surest way to prison sex incorporated for those that the prosecution wants sent to the Gulag.  A prosecutor and presiding black robed jackboot usually leads a typical jury by the nose.  

The only time that I served on a jury was circa 1980, and a cop was on trial for breaking and entering the evidence room and stealing the booty for personal gain.  Yes, he was set up in a sting operation, so he claimed entrapment.  He had to knock the door hinge pins out and remove the door to get in.  The jury voted 11-1 for acquittal, as I recall one of the ignorant fcks in deliberations say, 'they're all crooked, why should he be jailed.'  I was the only one who voted for Guilty.  The evidence was overwhelming.  

I was known by father's occupation, retired USAF Security Police commander and deputy prison warden in the city in which we lived.  I don't know why I wasn't scratched during jury selection.  Upon jury dismissal, as I was leaving the elevator and walking into the courthouse lobby, one of the jurors called out that I was the one (who hung the jury).  I got anonymous phone calls for a few days.  Didn't say anything, just the voiceless phone calls.

msmith9962's picture

Good for you! And thank you.  There is right and wrong.  The society is grading on a curve these days.

falconflight's picture

Even at that tinder age, I was appalled by the capriciousness of the average Joe.  The Third Reich and the USSR were supported en mass by their average Joes.

Stuck on Zero's picture

Stupid diatribe backed up with almost no facts.

pods's picture

Why are these articles only posted late at night?

All day long it's inside baseball on which Greek politician said what.

The philosophical debate pieces only come out at night?


falconflight's picture

It's hardly a diatribe, do I need to write a thesis paper connecting the dots, when a fairly well read person will have already come to a similar conclusion?  You don't think that the CCCP and the National Workers Socialist Party had strong support from the average Joe?  I'll respond to a specific criticism of my generalize posted opinion if you so wish to continue.

mkkby's picture

Yes, you need to prove your point.  If the answer is obvious, then why bother writing anything.

This is a horrible article.  There is no support for the author's claim that the system is the problem.  Instead, it only shows that perhaps no system can work when the humans involved are inherently stupid, lazy, greedy and dishonest.

No offense.  But this article would get a failing grade in a high school rhetoric class.  Learn how to make a point and support it with facts.  Otherwise it is bullshit.

Dubaibanker's picture

There is nothing wrong with the US justice system. All communist countries torture and kill their own citizens especially the weak ones such as North Korea and the United States of America.

Tall Tom's picture

Shhhh..You will awaken the scavenger, the Bald Eagle, a symbol of what the United States is all about.


Watch as the symbol of our FREEDUMB scavanges for those yummy rotting Fish Heads...Mmmm Mmmm good.


They are just so reflective of the American Public, aren't they? It is actually an appropriate and representative symbol.


Now I may get caged to be fed rotting green bologna for what I write.


You know those untried innocents behind bars deserve that maltreatment, right?.


The American public cannot care less as they are ALL GUILTY otherwise they would not be there.


Presumption of innocense until proven guilty does not exist. They claim they aspire to such ideals, but, in reality, they are just scavenging hypocrites.

Dubaibanker's picture

Seems like lot of Govt types on ZH today...all 10 of them are down voting me...LOL!

junction's picture

You want to change the system, look at what happened to Aaron Swartz, murdered and his death made to look like he hung himself.  If the police ever looked at surveillance footage from the digital security cameras used by the houses on Swartz's block (a Jewish enclave in a black neighborhood),  the police kept mum.  And then there is DA Ray Gricar, reinvestigating some crimes (including Penn State's Jerry Sandusky, the murder of Dawn Marie Birnbaum and the "suicide" death of his brother Roy Gricar) before the DA retired.  Ray Gricar is still missing, his body never found, his death a warning to anyone else who threatens the way things are with the satanists who run America.

Hugh G Rection's picture

The Just-Us system works perfectly.

Zio bankster scum can loot the treasury and blow up skyscrapers on live television, while the lowly goyim class fills the private for profit prisons for mostly victimless crimes.

Still ignorant about the seminal event of our lifetime?

NoDebt's picture

Best legal system money can buy.

Hugh G Rection's picture

Yeah, and we have the best "representatives" money can buy.

Rico's picture

^^^ - This. is. the. key.

If you can afford "justice" you will get off, if you cannot, you go to prison, regardless of guilt or innocence. As an attorney, I can definitively say that how much you are willing (or able) to spend on defending yourself is much more important than those trifling things like "facts" or 'evidence" in determining the outcome of your case. Our pretend 'justice' system is truly farcical and just another coopted institution that tries to support/maintain the illusion for the deluded masses that they have legal rights and thus should continue to support the evil system that is robbing and ass raping them on a daily basis.


"They have legal rights" - HAhahahahaha - vomit. 

divingengineer's picture

As an attorney, do you see any concern for justice or only procedure?

I've heard it said several times that prosecutors, judges, court staff don't care about justice or fairness, just following procedural rules. 

sgt_doom's picture

Again, and again, please don't repeat the OFFICIAL definitions, this is yet another Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy story.

The purpose of the criminal justice system in the USA (and elsewhere) is two-fold: to restrict, or cancel out, the low-end competition; and, to jail and trivialize the reformers.

Hence, the low-enders, the competition to the super-criminals who run and control reality at the top, are rendered powerless by being jailed.

The reformers, the Eugene Debs, Helen Gurley Flynn, and today, John Kiriakou, etc., are routinely jailed as they pose a threat to their system, the Status Quo.

People have a most difficult time dealing with this, but study the history of the American jurisprudence system, and it becomes readily apparent.

The robber of the small store is a capitalist, as is the small store owner.  If the robber is successful and moves on to bigger and better things, he eventually might assume his place among the super-rich criminals, but if he is caught, then he or she is incarcerated, for being a poorly functioning capitalist!

Hey! Life, look at me, I can see the reality

Supernova Born's picture

As a juror, I'm requiring NSA quality surveillance proving guilt before convicting on any crime.

It's available.

Provide it or I've got reasonable doubt.

Deathstar's picture

Be sure to verse your fellow jurors on "Jury Nullification" as well. Very important.

falconflight's picture

Blacks are getting the message about nullification, except it's all based on race loyality.  The danger of nullification, but still, it is necessary.

Supernova Born's picture

For my part, I would not "verse" jurors on the law in a courthouse.

Voicing my personal doubts during deliberations concerning the evidence or lack thereof?

I would do that.


bluez's picture

Oh fuck that. As a juror, you decide the law, as well as the evidence. Don't let them waste any more of your time.

Stop listening to the time-wasting judges and lawyers.

KTRcarol's picture

In the late 1800s judges stopped instructing jurors that they could judge the law itself, not just the innocents or guilt of the person charged.

Slavery and prohibition both came to an end because juries stopped convicting.


The constitution gives you 3 votes. The 2 never talked about are as juror or grand juror.


When you serve on a jury you have more power than the president. You can not be prosecuted for a jury vote.  [In reality you have veto power over a law]



We live in a worldwhere folks do not register to vote because they might get called for jury duty ...sigh



lincolnsteffens's picture

1. If you are in a Constitutional Court the jury's decision is final. If you are in an Admiralty Court ( most courts of Statutes, Regulations and Codes) the judge can throw out the jury's decision.

2. I went before 9 different " Judges" ( code word for Administrators ) in 9 different appearances on two "traffic violations". I never had a trial but was found "responsible".  One code violation had a criminal complaint (the police knew in advance I had no criminal intent) which the DA decriminalized because he knew he could not show intent to commit a crime.

    I represented myself over 2 1/2 years, filed 3 different appeals, spent about 10K ( a BAR (fly) attorney would have charged over 100 K).

    Finally I received a call from the DA saying he could not refute my appeal and the State would most likely loose. He offered a dismissal saying he could find no evidence that I had a trial. He said if I went through with the appeal the Appellate court would most likely order a "new" trial.  We signed an agreement ending the appeal and the Administrative Court was instructed to dismiss the charges.

     Almost no one understands the law nor the court procedures and language. I had to learn in real time and found someone to advise me who was not a BAR fly. Almost no one could stand the stress nor afford the time and money I spent to obtain justice. It is easier to plead guilty and pay the fine which is why almost no one tries to defeat the fraud of the legal system.






falconflight's picture

It is easier to plead guilty and pay the fine which is why almost no one tries to defeat the fraud of the legal system.


That's it in a nutshell isn't it?

divingengineer's picture

Supernova is right, the judge will light your arse on fire for instructing the jury in contradiction to his instructions. Judges have held a number of people in contempt over the years for that.  

As for deliberations, you'll probably come to the conclusion that you are the only juror that is not legally retarded if your experience was like mine. 

Skateboarder's picture

Hell, they know the last intersection you crossed in your car lol.

Abaco's picture

And when they provide it how do you know it wasn't fabricated?  Most people are on trial for "crimes" where there is no victim so the answer is aquital even if you have video of the dude standing on the corner yelling "get your cocaine here!"  Of course, if they have video of someone taking out a politician or a banker the vote is "medal of honor."

large_wooden_badger's picture

The Gulag Archipeligo is an interesting read. That's what you eventually get with a standing army of revenue collection agents that need to make their numbers. Theft? Murder? Rape? No time for that when there's money in ticketing minor motor vehicle infractions.

Deathstar's picture


It is no longer "To Serve and Protect" it is now
"To Beat and Collect"

large_wooden_badger's picture

And "prosecutorial immunity", or whatever it's called. Why can't the state be held liable for prosecutorial overreach? The only exception I can recall was Nifong in the Duke rape case. Otherwise the rest of them are never held accountable for convicting innocent people.

Abaco's picture

Prosecutorial immunity is a concoction of the political class trying to reclaim the privileges of royalty.  There should be no such thing.

Refuse-Resist's picture

Protect and Serve has been changed to

Harrass and Extract



Refuse-Resist's picture

Why is it that every time a police cruiser gets behind me on the road, he tailgates me? That's a violation of the law called "following too closely".

And it's intimidating. Because, most people go 10 over the posted speed limit all the time and the cops don't ticket for that.

But when one is behind you and tailgating you in his 'prowler', is it because he wants you to go 10 over so he can get where he's going, or is he trying to goad you into speeding up so he can pull you over and shake you down? (any ticket here nets out at at least $230 no matter what).

They should enforce by example: obey the speed limit, don't tailgate, and stop acting like fucking assholes when they do catch people disobeying malum prohibitum laws.

They initiate the encounters almost every time and they dictate the way those encounters play out.

I don't talk to them. And when they tailgate me, I go exactly the speed limit and fuck em for tailgating and breaking the law as well as endangering me and my passengers by following too close.

If I was tailgating them like that they'd pull me over.

And I don't like having an armed agitated man at the window of my car telling me what to do.

Thanks, but I'll protect myself.



detached.amusement's picture

Because intimidation is a primary tactic by which police get their "job" done.


and by "job" I mean extorting money and working their way around your "rights"....and throwing the book at you if you do not acquiesce to voluntarily giving up your rights.

NoDebt's picture

If you were innocent why would you be put on trial?

You're all guilty of something.  Me, too.  It's just a matter of figuring out what you're guilty of and whether we want to enforce it.  That's where the money comes into the equation.

El Vaquero's picture

The last time Congress asked Congressional Research Services to count the number of federal crimes, CRS told Congress to pound sand because the last time CRS tried, they got up to 10,000 and determined that the cross references between the USC and the CFR made it far too complex to continue.  When Congress inquired what would fix the problem of having these laws being unjustly applied, they were given a simple answer:  Pass a law requiring that mens rea (guilty mind) be proven before a conviction could stick.  Congress has yet to do as much.  


"Show me the man and I'll find you the crime."



falconflight's picture

Spot on Dude.  When this nation's so called rule of law dismantles the legal concept of mens rea, we are truly a police state, a nation of men, not laws.  People going to jail for violations of a regulation in this Administrative State.  Frightening, and yet people still mouth the axiom of the State; "ignorance of the law is no excuse."  Frightening

Refuse-Resist's picture

My first encounter with a blue hero was a CHP when I was 13 (1979).  I had just moved to SoCal, and was pushing my YZ80 along side the road toward a legal riding area.

Mr. CHP was sitting there with his lights on.  As I pass by I ask him what's going on with all the firetrucks and emergency vehicles?

He says "I don't see a green sticker on that motorcycle".  I said "I just moved here last week from Missouri".

He says "Son, you're required by law to have a green sticker on that bike, and ignorance is no excuse".

He wrote me a ticket. My dad was pissed at me for getting a ticket but admitted that he, a federal law enforcement officer himself, didn't know that law.

I learned at a young age not to talk to them because they will bust anything and anybody at any time.

You start talking to them, then they start looking to bust you for any violation of a myriad of regulations that no one citizen can possibly know.

Nope, don't want them around me at all.

I deal with people on a daily basis who called the police for one thing, but end up getting arrested or hurt themselves (or a loved one) over something unrelated just because a cop was there.

Dog will hunt.



detached.amusement's picture

Awesomest part of that one is that they can still bust you based on THEIR ignorance of the law....

you dont know it - book thrown at you

they dont know it - they enforce what they FEEL is "the law" anyway and have a hundred jackboots to back them up on it.

falconflight's picture

I had to post again because of the lack of votes.  Your assertion hits at at the center of our journey becoming just another police state.  In the past, a critical element of proving a crime, was intent. Period.  No more for the most part, and mens rea is nearly non existent in administrative law proceedings.  too bad you didn't know about the regulation, you're guilty.  I can burn on my property, but only if I comply with multiple shalls and shall nots; and only if you comply with sub part a and sub part c when it is subordinate to sub part b, and then only if compliant with sub part d.  Yet, they are in conflict.  Same with the gun control laws and interpretations in NC.  Being a criminal in Amerika is as easy as getting up each morning and living within this society.

The Beria quote is blood curdling, and the millions of graves built with that mentality.

El Vaquero's picture

Actually, if I ever were to get popped with some arcane BS federal regulation like that, part of my defense would be to look for some arcane BS federal law or reg that contradicts what they're after me for.  There are some practical and legal issues when one law requires that you violate another and vise versa.  If I could, I would use the bloat and complexity of US law against the system. 

OldPhart's picture

First, you'd have to be a lawyer, second you'd have to read, and be able retain, all the bullshit laws and regulations from International, Our War Government, State, County, and Town laws/regulations/edicts and demands...then be able to match the idiocy with similar idiocy.

A daunting task.


El Vaquero's picture

I have successfully defended myself against a TBTF in civil court.  The idea that you have to be a lawyer is a myth.

falconflight's picture

you are indeed a man taking the road less traveled, and with great consequence should you not prevail.  I don't think (Don't actually know) courts look kindly on people representing themselves and might even get a complaint that you;re practicing law without a license, if you should show sufficient acumen and motivation.

Abaco's picture

Courts lecture you that you need to hire an attorney.  They do this because attorney's are neutered and won't raise issues such as jurisdiction or common law requirements for mens rea and a victim.