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Letters

(Not) Guilty

The article by Steve Wein-berg ["(Not) Guilty," May/June] raises critical issues about which every Christian should be informed. I am both a pastor and a criminal defense lawyer, and 1 can confirm that the criminal justice system is broken, but not in the way the common person thinks.

How can an innocent person confess to a crime they didn't commit? The purpose of a

police interrogation is not to elicit the truth. The purpose is to emotionally isolate the suspect, intimidate him, and do whatever is necessary in order to get him to say what the police want him to say. Psychologically, even an innocent person after hours of interrogation can be convinced that he was wrong. Steve Linscott graphically illustrates this from his personal experience in his book Maximum Security.

The police will routinely lie in order to get their confession. In one recent case I handled, the police claimed to have a "voice stress analyzer" that could spot a lie with 100 percent accuracy (it was nothing more than a common lap lap

top computer), while in another case they claimed to have swabbed a murder suspect's hands and discovered gunpowder residue (a test that this particular police department hasn't used in over ten years).

The police continue to use faulty techniques for conducting eyewitness examinations. The psychological literature is now replete with explanations as to why so many eyewitness identifications are erroneous and have provided protocols as to how a proper eyewitness identification should be conducted in order to minimize false identifications. Police departments routinely ignore these protocols, including the suggestions of the U.S. Department of Justice.

I could go on. This is certainly not to minimize the damage done by criminal defense lawyers who fail to

adequately investigate a case and lack the skills to successfully present a defense to a-jury.

The typical person on a jury has no idea how poorly the system operates. The common assumption is that the defendant must be guilty or the state wouldn't have charged her. I think Alexander Solzhenitsyn said that the Soviet Union was successful in falsely prosecuting so many of their own citizens because their neighbors simply couldn't believe their own government would falsely prosecute one of its own citizens.

The juxtaposition of this article with Vitullo-Martin's "By the People" and the defense of the jury system was quite interesting. Since 1980, the percentage of criminal defendants going to trial has decreased by two-thirds. In 1980, one defendant went to trial for every four who pled guilty. By 1999, that ratio fell to one in twenty. Such statistics should prompt questions.

Irwin Schwartz, past president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, makes a convincing case that the failure to try cases lets police and prosecutors get sloppy and removes citizens from their critical participation in the criminal justice system via jury participation. Last year, more than 100 criminal convictions were set aside in Los Angeles as a result of police misconduct. The misconduct went undiscovered for a long period of time because few cases were adequately investigated and tried.

Why are so few criminal cases tried? The answer to that question is very complex. Part of the answer involves the problem of prosecutors overcharging a

 

defendant, that is, charging the defendant with crimes that probably can't be proven but which "up the ante" and encourage the defendant to settle in order to avoid the risk of a much longer incarceration. Another part of the answer is the recent spate of "three strikes and you're out" laws which give the prosecutor enormous discretion in the way a case is charged. Another part of the answer is the sentencing leniency built into the federal sentencing guidelines for criminal defendants who "rat" on others.

I wonder why Christians so often identify with the state and the prosecution rather than the defense. One great criminal defense lawyer asked, If Jesus had been a lawyer, would he have been a prosecutor or a defender? There is a redemptive approach to the practice of criminal law!

I hope you will devote more debate to these problems in, future issues.

Steve Long Albuquerque, N.M.

Seducing the Underworld

Thanks so much for the excellent review of Moulin Rouge ["Seducing the Underworld," March/April], certainly the most challenging film I've seen out of recent industry efforts. Douglas Jones's analysis helped me get my mind around some of what has inexplicably gripped me about this movie. More importantly, his critique 'took on the admirable and rare job of serious interpretation of what are all too frequently dismissed as hollow "postmodern" strategies of appropriation and reference.

The film's creators obviously took popular culture seri-' ously when they made Moulin Rouge; they earned our serious consideration, as well. Thank you for providing a

forum for this exemplary effort.

Kevin .Hamilton

Grand Rapids, Mich.

In his otherwise illuminating review of MouKn Rouge, Douglas Jones writes about the silliness of the love songs of the protagonists Christian and Satine: "And their silliness is no worse than the 'silly' passions of the Song of Solomon. Solomon and the Shulamite [sic] are utterly

lovesick for each other, too."

Let me recommend to Jones '(and your readers) Calvin Seerveld's entirely sober, and yes, critical, poetic, and even liturgical, translation/interpretation of The Greatest Song (Toronto Tuppence Press). Seerveld challenges the historical hoard of spiritualized readings as well as the latest casual, clearly mistaken, write-off of the canonical Song of Solomon. Solomon is revealed as the historical lecherous, idolatrous king that he'was, and the Shulammite woman as the exemplar of true sexual love, offended by his lustful overtures and faithful to her true

lover (7:10-8:4).•                        .

There is nothing silly about either of them. Instead,

God here reveals (literally) the sadness and futility of King Solomon's lust and the gladness and strength of

the Shulammite's love (8:6-7).

Dewey Hoitenga

Grand Rapids, Mich.

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