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Correcting Criminal Justice Through Collective Experience Rigorously Examined

NCJ Number
Southern California Law Review Volume: 87 Dated: 2014 Pages: 585-632
James S. Liebman; David Matthew
Date Published
48 pages
This essay argues for a continuous review of the outcomes produced by current efforts to structure criminal justice processing, so as to increase the chances that the guilty will be convicted and appropriately held accountable for their crimes and that the innocent will not be convicted due to flaws in procedures intended to render justice and fairness.
During various historic periods, criminal justice policymakers and practitioners in America have endeavored to fashion rules of evidence and criminal justice procedures so as to facilitate the conviction of the guilty and the release of the innocent charged with crimes. Within this framework of procedural requirements, discretion has been granted to key decisionmakers, so as to enable them to administer justice under the distinctive circumstances of particular cases. The U.S. Supreme Court has used its discretion to provide exceptions to particular procedural mandates in order to take into account the "good faith" of law enforcement actors and "harmless error" when violations of the rules are deemed to have caused no significant harm bearing on case outcomes. This essay argues against the trend to minimize and undermine government rules, regulations, and their strict enforcement under a libertarian effort to minimize and relax government rules that impose constraints. This essay argues that the criminal justice system best serves all citizens when rules and regulations are imposed following collective assessment of how the justice system is currently functioning, with revisions made only after scientific observations and assessment of the fairness and effectiveness of the system's current operations under existing rules and regulations. This is an argument for rational and effective controls over criminal justice processing, which must be closely monitored and fine-tuned in order to ensure it is achieving the intent of its architects. 341 notes