My wife is a fan of what I call “Forensic Files, etc.” – meaning all of those true crime TV shows that have popped up over the last 5 to 10 years or so. (Despite being a criminal defense lawyer, I can barely stand to watch those shows myself.)
I walked by the living room as she was watching the end of last night’s Dateline NBC “Scenes from a Murder” episode about an ultimately still unsolved investigation of a young woman’s death.
I’ll quote the part that caught my ear later in the post, but for starters, here’s my wife’s recap of the events.
Young woman found dead. Years of investigation with multiple investigators lead to suspects including: the fraternity boyfriend, the neighbor (eventually incarcerated for a different violent crime), and even the brother, father and mother are accused of complicity at one point, albeit by a disgruntled out of town police officer who became upset when he was no longer being considered for an acting/directing role in a possible movie.
Bottom line: unsolved violent crime. Unlikely to ever be solved.
Now here’s what caught my attention. As Keith Morrison, the narrator, is wrapping up, he says:
As for [the Sheriff], he says he’s determined still that someone will be charged with the murder of Jennifer Morgan.
That someone be charged. Not that the killer is finally found. That “someone be charged”.
And now to innocents in prison.
The feeling that someone must pay, especially for gruesome and violent crimes, is so strong, that it often leads police, D.A.’s, and juries to feel compelled to “solve” a murder with a ‘Guilty’ verdict.
After all, we know someone did it, right? If no one is convicted, justice has not been served.
How many murder investigations have actually lead to indictments by prosecutors of “the only person we know who to charge”? Or indictments of “the spouse because they are the best suspect”?
Follow that up with a trial where the jury is given no other option as to who will ever go to prison for this crime…and you end up with defendants convicted on extremely shaky evidence.