Prosecution is more of an art than a science. Prosecutors responsible for the public’s safety rely largely on their intuition, not science. This includes the artful challenges of matching the complexities of offensive individual human behavior with available statutes to enforce the state’s will. Think of a normative curve with a variety of potential outcomes, including outliers at each end.
Prosecutions risk significant statistical error.
To avert a risk to the public’s safety, prosecutors tend to error on the side of caution. They strategically file the most serious charges possible from the known facts in a case, hoping the arrestee will accept a plea deal agreeing to charges closer to the actual offense. For decades, plea bargaining has been a trusted tool for reducing the number of cases taken to trial.
Prosecution errors distort justice.
Those convicted at trial typically receive harsher sentences. When appealing due process errors, appellate panels often rule the error as harmless and affirm the conviction and sentence. In contrast to the guilty, the wrongly convicted are ineligible for parole—unless willing to lie to the parole board who insist on some confession of culpability. Those wrongly convicted of sexual assault must register as a sex offender, sometimes for life. Housing and employment impacts can be dismal for any wrongly convicted, limiting their access to post-conviction relief. Since post-conviction relief is in high demand it is reserved for those still serving time.
Prosecutions sometimes result in type 1 errors.
With this imperfect process, the more wrongly one is accused the more likely one asserts their right to challenge the charges at trial. When it comes to court procedures, political will favors prosecutors over defense lawyers, even over judges and sometimes over complainants. This raises the risk for a type 1 error: the false positive of a miscarriage of justice, when an innocent person is falsely convicted of a crime.
Remember, the courts are only accountable to what the court agrees is a fair process, with no accountability to its long-term outcomes. Consequently, thousands are released after serving their maximum prison terms and continue to struggle under a weight of unresolved injustice. Does that include you?
Predisposed Toward Error
JUSTIFISM UNPACKED: Skewed Normative Curve
JUSTIFISM UNPACKED: Skewed Toward State Violence
The majority of convicted felons are not guilty of the specific crimes under which they were convicted. But a majority of these have committed offenses close enough to fall under the legal theory of "harmless error." That is, as far as the courts are concerned there is insignificant difference to warrant further review or remedy. Ultimately, the generalizations for perceived public safety overrules the specifics of individual liberties.