10 Times The Justice System FAILED
We entrust in the justice system to keep us safe, but no system is completely fool proof. Anything that relies heavily on a human element is bound to have its holes. Whether it’s a poorly handled crime scene or a complete disregard for the legal system, some cases, like these following ten, show just how badly the justice system can fail.
The West Memphis 3
Depending on which end of the spectrum you stand on, the case of the West Memphis 3, the convicted murderers of Steve Branch, Christopher Byers, and Michael Moore, ended in failure for different reasons. Those in support of Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley believed the evidence that led to their convictions was circumstantial. Others were more outraged by their release in 2011 after a series of documentaries and celebrity outcry brought attention to possible inconsistencies in the prosecution. Either way you look at it, whether the West Memphis 3 were truly guilty, the killers of Branch, Byers, and Moore are still free.
Starting in May of 2010, 16-year-old Browder endured what many would consider an egregious case of mishandling by the New York City Police Department after being questioned for the theft of Roberto Bautista’s backpack and pricey contents. Though Bautista’s story changed multiple times, Browder was arrested and charged with grand larceny, robbery, and assault. Over the course of over 1,000 days in Riker’s Island, Browder spent 800 of them in solitary confinement and attempted to commit suicide on four occasions. On May 29th, 2013, after 31 court appearances and no trial, Browder was released. Though he tried to make a normal life for himself, Browder’s mental state had changed significantly, leading to his suicide in June of 2015.
Working against prosecutor Marcia Clark in the trial of O.J. Simpson was more than just evidence. Simpson’s defense was a veritable “Dream Time” with Johnnie Cochran. The trial, already marred by jury issues and crime scene handling, eventually shifted focus from the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman to race relations between blacks and the Los Angeles Police Department. Simpson’s defense used the momentum to use his race as an alibi, claiming the LAPD, specifically Detective Mark Fuhrman, framed him. The Hail Mary worked and Simpson was found not guilty. In 2006, he released a book title If I Did It and, in 2008, was convicted of armed robbery and kidnapping in a Las Vegas incident.
Steve Avery was first arrested in 1985 for the sexual assault of Penny Beerntsen. Though his alibi was airtight and another inmate, Gregory Allen, had admitted to a similar crime, Avery was sentenced to 32 years in prison and was released 18 years later only after a DNA test exonerated him. Two years after his release, Avery became the prime suspect in the murder of Teresa Halbach and, in 2007, was sentenced to life. Avery and his supporters continue to cry foul, claiming he was framed after it was revealed a vial of his blood had been tampered with. Many that believe he’s guilty blame the local police and time spent in prison for turning him into a potential murderer.
The Yale Murder Case
“It came to me that I had to kill her and then kill myself.” The words of then-23-year-old Richard Herrin, Yale student and murderer of Bonnie Garland. The crime was gruesome, a swift blow to the skull by a hammer split the victim’s head open. After Garland spoke of breaking off her long-distance relationship with Herrin, he became obsessed. After the murder, Herrin received an outpouring of support from the local Catholic community who helped pay for Jack Litman, a top defense attorney with a glowing track record. Litman’s reputation did not disappoint as he was able to get the disturbed man off on manslaughter despite Herrin’s own admission. By 1995, the killer was out on parole.
On May 30th, 2010, Jordan van der Sloot was convicted for the murder of Flores Ramirez – but we’re not here to discuss times when justice was served. Five years prior, American student Natalee Holloway vanished during a trip to Aruba, her remains never found. The only consistent suspect in her disappearance was van der Sloot who, after multiple arrests, was cleared of all charges in 2007. Though life wasn’t perfect for the accused murderer, he could have been free from the law if not for the murder of Ramirez. In February of 2016, during an undercover recording van der Sloot was heard confessing to the murder of Holloway.
While waiting in the car alone after a meal while husband and former Baretta star Robert Blake ran into the restaurant to grab his gun, Bonnie Lee Bakley was shot and killed. A year later, Blake was arrested for the murder after two individuals, George McLarty and Ronald Hambleton, claimed Blake solicited them to kill his wife. Despite their testimony and other circumstantial evidence, the former actor was acquitted. According to the defense’s private investigator Scott Ross, though Blake may not be the killer, he was involved and the prosecution’s fault was not having Blake’s former bodyguard, Earle Caldwell, testify against him. In a civil suit filed by Bakley’s children, Blake was ordered to pay each child $500,000
On June 19th, 1982, Ronald Ebens and stepson Michael Nitz murdered Vincent Chin after an altercation between Ebens and Chin at a gentleman’s club out of hand. With a Louisville Slugger in hand, Ebens and Nitz sought out Chin when he departed from the fight, eventually finding him at a nearby McDonald’s where they beat him into a coma. Four days later, Chin died. After the 30th anniversary of the attack, Ebens apologized for the murder in an interview, though he didn’t have to do it from prison. Ebens and Nitz were tried in a county court, took a plea bargain for manslaughter, and were slapped with three years probation and fines totaling just under $4,000.
We all know the song, but do you know about the trial of Lizzie Borden for the murder of her father, Andrew, and his wife, Abby? By the close of the 19th century trial, Lizzie had been acquitted of all murder chargers, but the evidence seemed to pile against her. During interviews, her story changed frequently and her alibi was proven illogical and unlikely. The heir to Andrew’s million-dollar estate had also been seen attempting to purchase a highly poisonous liquid, prussic acid, and even admitted to burning a dress after the crimes, one she claimed was stained with paint. Where the case failed, however, was in the lack of forensic evidence as police never fingerprinted the crime scene.
Gerard T. Schweiger
It may not be a high-profile case, but the murder of Tony Mozick Sr. in the small town of Leipsic, DE is a fine example of the manipulation of the legal system. During the trial against alleged murderer Gerard Schweiger, the defendant admitted to killing Mozick, but his statement was refuted by his defense attorneys, who claimed he was covering for his girlfriend, Mozick’s daughter, Jennifer Barnes. Despite a history of violence between Schweiger and the victim and his own admission, the defendant was found not guilty. After a short prison sentence for five lesser charges, Schweiger was recorded on a phone call ultimately admitting to Mozick’s murder.