4.24.2007

Eric Volz

You won't find me blogging too much about Crime and Punishment. I am no legal expert.
But I've been wondering why, in recent years, so many people on death row have been found innocent, mainly due to DNA evidence, and released.
You would think in a death penalty case, the most serious of all legal cases, often involving murder, rape and other horrendous acts, the prosecution and the jury would be damn sure- that there would be overwhelming evidence- to not only convict the accused but then to go ahead and hand down the ultimate punishment.
It really makes me wonder of all the cases that are not so serious- where, perhaps, the person is accused of a misdemeanor or felony, or where evidence is not so cut and dry. Statistically, there must be a thousands of innocent people in prison as we speak. At any one time, according to DOJ and The Straight Dope there are about 2 million prisoners. If only one percent are innocent of the crime accused, that is about 20000 innocent people behind bars in the U.S. No one said justice was perfect and I really do not have a good solution to this problem except to point it out. I am sure race and economics figure significantly into the equation.
Nonetheless, if you think our system of justice is flawed, then be comforted by the fact that there are much worse places like China(no surprise there) and now Nicaragua.
Nicaragua, under Daniel Ortega has become more corrupt then ever. An American named Eric Volz was found guilty of murdering and raping his former girlfriend, Doris Jimenez, and given 30 years in prison. The crime is a despicable and horrible act and someone is responsible. But it doesn't appear to be Volz.
To begin with, at least 10 people confirm that Volz was in his house in Managua over two hours at the time of the murder. Cell Site records show that he was far away at the time of the murder. Instant Messages show him conversing with a friend in Atlanta before and during the murder took place. The only witness who said he saw Volz at the murder scene was a suspect himself who agreed to testify that he saw Volz after he was given full immunity from the prosecution. Most importantly, there was absolutely no physical evidence- blood, hair or fluids found at the scene that matched Volz. There wasn't even any physical evidence of rape. We only know she was strangled. Eric Volz is obviously appealing this decision from a jail in Nicaragua where no members of the press are allowed to interview him. You can read a lot more about the evidence for his innocence and the lack of evidence for his guilt in the links. Either way, at minimum, he was not given a fair trial (far from it), at worst he is innocent.
Don't think for a second that this can't happen here because it can and it has. Many times we don't know if we've made a serious mistake in taking away an innocent persons freedom. This time we do. The only way to stop it is to get Congress to put pressure on the Nicaraguan government. As Martin Luther King said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere".

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