Should an elected prosecutor be boasting about a conviction based on what is, at best, shaky science that has been documented to have resulted in false convictions?
An Indiana prosecutor recently purchased an advertisement in the program for a Lincoln Day Dinner boasting he is “proudly over-crowding our prisons.” While it is always good when the civil magistrate appropriately punishes criminals, there is no question that convicting an innocent person is also a terrible injustice. That’s why the mugshot of someone sent to prison for a “shaken baby death” caught my attention. The science behind the “shaken baby syndrome” diagnosis has come under strict scrutiny over the last few years and there are serious doubts as to the validity of that science and by extension “shaken baby” convictions.
Almighty God tells us in Holy Scripture that we are not to bear false witness against our neighbor. For those in a position of authority, that is even more important. After all, Romans 13 tells us that the civil magistrate was given authority by God and they are His deacons. Elected prosecutors and law enforcement, then, are under an even heavier burden to be truthful and to seek justice. This means that prosecutors must be very careful about seeking convictions based on science that is, at best, highly suspect.
Imagine you are a parent, and your child has a medical condition. You did not neglect, abuse or harm your child, who dies in your care. It is awful, but sometimes there is a tragedy and no one is to blame. Imagine then, on top of the terrible grief, pain and inevitable (if misplaced) guilt over losing your baby, that you are then framed for the murder of that child. And yes – we know from multiple exonerations that parents have been framed for the murder of their child by corrupt prosecutors and district attorneys more interested in getting notches on their belt than seeking justice.
The “shaken baby syndrome” scandal is yet another illustration as to why the entire focus of our criminal justice system needs to change. There is far too much emphasis on “getting the bad guys” and “winning” while there is not nearly enough emphasis on seeking justice. A prosecutor’s job is absolutely not to win convictions. A prosecutor’s job is to seek justice, and putting innocent people in prison is not justice. Instead, it is a betrayal of the taxpayers, a betrayal of due process, a betrayal of the Constitution and most importantly it is a betrayal of Almighty God who granted that prosecutor his authority in the first place.