North Carolina Justice: Law & Order or CSI?

[ UPDATE: ] Via WRAL-TV, the NC Supreme Court has issued a stay pending DNA tests in the case.

May 12th, the State of North Carolina is poised to practice justice Law & Order style.

Law & Order, a popular television franchise using stories “ripped from today’s headlines”, combines 22 minutes of heavy-handed police work (suspects slammed against walls) with 22 minutes of legal maneuvering (often crossing Constitutional boundaries) to deliver, usually in some surprising twist, a satisfying dramatic conclusion.

As the screen fades to black, the audience is assured that justice, as practiced by the over zealous police and prosecution, has been fairly meted out.

Surpassing Law & Order in popularity, CSI, a franchise about criminal scene investigators, follows chief investigator Gil Grissom and his crack forensic team as they use real, but not readily available, technology and techniques to ferret out the truth behind a crime. Quite often, what seems to be the truth is revealed to be wrong. The show’s writers often proffer an initial red-herring suspect – vociferously declaring his or her innocence – whose claims are vindicated in an equally satisfying dramatic conclusion.

Justice, often meted out on the end of a DNA probe, is not perverted by zealous prosecutorial misconduct.

Jerry Conner, a death row inmate,is scheduled to die May 12th in spite of the real possibility of his innocence.

Exculpatory DNA evidence – evidence not conclusive using the original 1991 DNA technology – is available to be tested. It will definitively rule, one way or another, on Conner’s claims.

Our State Bureau of Investigation’s lab, like the lab in CSI, has the new DNA technology. Yet the State, on our behalf, refuses to test the evidence.

I don’t know if Conner is guilty or not.

  • He originally confessed, but 1 out of 4 persons exonerated by DNA evidence have also confessed.
  • He’s on death row, but in the last 23 years 25 states have released 123 death row inmates on grounds of innocence.
  • He had a juror that lied about her knowledge of the case, but two of three U.S 4th Circuit Court of Appeals judges ruled against Conner, to the strong dissension of the third, Judge Michael Luttig, who wrote that the behavior of the juror clearly “constitute[d] a quintessential instance of actual juror bias.”

I know this.

  • I know it took less than a week to test 46 Duke lacrosse players DNA in a recent Durham rape case.
  • I know the Federal government has pledged $1 billion to assist DNA evaluations, leading to post-conviction exonerations like that of Kirk Bloodsworth.
  • I know we only have to look slightly westward, to Winston-Salem’s Darryl Hunt case, to see how an individual, 18 years proclaiming his innocence, was wrongly convicted but eventually exonerated because of DNA evidence.

There’s a reason CSI is so popular. Folks, like the good citizens of North Carolina, want to bring every technique and technology to bear in order to prove innocence.

Let’s call on our State to stand firm for real justice and demand a DNA test before killing a potentially innocent man.

Contact Governor Easley
Contact Attorney General Roy Cooper
Contact Your North Carolina Legislators

More on what you can do to help at the Jerry Conner ‘blog.


8 responses to “North Carolina Justice: Law & Order or CSI?”

  1. Jason Baker Avatar

    The Conner execution was just stayed by the NC Supreme Court.

  2. Administrator Avatar

    Alright! Let’s see if they go the distance. Thanks for the great news Jason.

  3. […] From WRAL, the state Supreme Court has stepped in, ordered the test the defense says can clear Conner of murder charge–the test the Attorney General’s office argued wasn’t needed before putting him to death. Mark Kleinschmidt, one of Conner’s lawyers, has an excellent website up about the case. And BlueNC’s recommending a Will Raymond blog entry. […]

  4. Lola Smith Avatar

    I just wanted to let you know that I knew Mihn Rogers and her daughter Linda. I kept Linda off and on for many years. I ran that store for Mihn
    during the day and sometimes at night for several years. I also no Jerry Connor, he was a distance cousin of my husband’s. Several customers saw Jerry that afternoon because he threaten them and told them to get out of there if they knew what was good for them. His nickname was trouble and he was constantly getting into trouble. He was there looking for drugs because he was nothing but a drug addict.
    I really think this is one of the worst things that could have happened to let him have another trial. Jerry Connor is guilty and he knows it. What he did is unforgiviable and he deserves to DIE for what he did. Where is the JUSTICE at? If I had not known these parties I could not say that but I know how much trouble Connor is. I am appauled at the governor of NC.
    I just don’t understand this justice system at all. The only justice we have is the justice of taking care of situations yourself. It amazes me that people kill,rape,rob,beat people to death and they get away with it. Innocent people is the ones who get thrown in jail or prison. I can’t people this is what the world has turned too. That really is an example to the generation coming up today. BOY I CAN GO OUT HERE AND KILL SOMEONE AND GET OFF SCOTT FREE. MY OH MY WHAT A MESSAGE TO SEND TO OUT YOUNG PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Administrator Avatar

    Lola, thank you for your comment.

    I’m trying to make the case to exhaustively prove a person facing the most final of punishments guilt or innocence.

    The Constitution and, I believe, American’s general sense of fairness, requires that we try to apply the law equally – to those we “know” are guilty and to those that we “think” are guilty.

    One thing we do know – innocent folk, charged with a range of crimes, petty to the most heinous, end up in prison.

    The legal system, the people that run it, the people that serve in it, can and do make mistakes.

    Sometimes, as we’ve seen from the recent $2.25M settlement for wrongful imprisonment of Earl Washington – a mentally-challenged man coerced into confessing to a murder he didn’t commit – the system, itself, is complicit in jailing the innocent.

    Because the system is faulty, because, as a human institution it, I believe, has and will always have inherent biases and because of the finality of the death penalty, I oppose the death penalty in all cases.

    Sometime, somewhere an innocent person will be killed by the State in our name. That’s unacceptable.

    That said, NC has the death penalty.

    Until our state joins with the 123 other countries that have recognized its inherent flaws, I believe we should afford a death row inmate reasonable opportunities to prove their innocence.

    In this case, exculpatory evidence exists to prove innocence or guilt. We should go the last mile to make sure that a travesty of justice doesn’t occur.

    Finally, to reiterate, I don’t know if Conner’s is guilty – it sounds like he is from what you’ve said.

    I want any person in NC facing the ultimate punishment, even the ones we “know” are guilty, to be afforded the ability to use DNA evidence to prove their innocence.

    I’m sorry for your loss Lola.

  6. Peggy Kandues Avatar

    Just because some people “thinks” Jerry is guily, doesn’t make it true. How would you like to have a juror picked on your case because he had on a “Looney Toones” tie, because the attorney thinks he has a sense of humor? Hearsay Rule can’t be used because hearsay is only rumor. Exculpatory evidence exists in Jerry’s case. It sounds to me like you didn’t like Jerry on a personal level. I’m sorry for the loss of your friends, but someone else may lose Jerry, his Mother, who becomes a victim of the system too. She has taken a lot off of society just for being his mother. She grieves for the possible loss of her son. Think about the many years that have taken a toll on her mentally and emotionally and possibly her health. If the State kills him and he’s found to be innocent afterwards, then we have a terrible situation of “wrongful death”, deliberate murder by the State of NC, and whom ever “volunteers” at the prison (possibly a guard with no medical training) to”attempt” to put the needle in Jerry’s arms on that “cross” where he is strapped down, (“nailed to”) just like Jesus was, and he was innocent too. His “Mother” grieved the loss of her “son”, murdered for who he was!
    The state has puchased a “machine” to tell them a person’s brain is dead, what is next? Chief Justice Harry Blackmun’s famous words were, “I will no longer tinker with the machinery of death”. There are a lot of judges who are closet believers of the same, but keep quiet until they retire or can no longer be a part of it. Blackmun was forced to retire because of his beliefs. I have heard one say that after he retired, Judge James Exum said those words in my presence. A person can’t be a true juror without being forced to apply death. Now do you think anyone could get a fair trial with a juror chosen with a “Looney Toones” tie on or a juror who is told he/she has to believe in the death penalty and apply it? I know that person will not get a fair trial, I’ve seen it happen.
    Peggy Kandies

  7. Peggy Kandies Avatar

    I would also say Jerry is lucky to have the attorneys he has to do what they have to fight for justice when the system is so broken.
    Peggy Kandies

  8. Peggy Kandies Avatar

    Jerry should have the chance to prove his innocence. Lola, Im sorry for the deaths of your friends.
    Jerry has a mother who has grieved for many years for the possible murder of her son. She’s a victim too.
    Jesus was nailed to a “cross”, Jerry would be strapped to one, but it wouldn’t be stood up. Then a “volunteer from the prison would attempt to try to inject the needle that would send the lethal drugs to murder Jerry. These same drugs are “illegal to kill animals”, but they can be used to kill “humans”. What is going on here? The legal system is broken.
    Jerry is lucky to have the attorneys he has who cares if Jerry is innocent rather than the state burying their mistakes, like some doctors do. Hearsay Rule protects people from hearsay, just because someone says something about Jerry doesn’t mean it’s true. God forbid we fall to that. The system is so broken now.
    DNA has proven so many were on death row for crimes they didn’t commit. Lost lives too.
    Peggy kandies

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