Houston criminal defense lawyer Stan Schneider left a series of comments on former Harris County District Attorney candidate Kelly Siegler’s post There’s No Such Thing As ‘Closure’ over at Women in Crime Ink. His last comment in the thread ended with:

Remember – it is better for nine guilty people to be set free than one innocent person be convicted and sent to prison.

To which Levi Page, administrator and message board operator of the War On Crime blog, replied:

Well I disagree, with that last line "it is better for nine guilty people to be set free than one innocent person be convicted and sent to prison."

Those 9 guilty people will be let out and most likely continue being a criminal, especially if they are a sexual predator.

Do the math.

A fine point Levi, even if not justifiable under our system of laws, because it illustrates a criminal defense lawyer’s worst fear of how a juror may literally mathematically calculate the effect of their decision.

Take a 12 person jury deliberating on an aggravated sexual assault of a child case. They know – instinctively, even if it’s not discussed openly – that there are 4 possible outcomes:

  1. Innocent defendant is acquitted and goes home.
  2. Innocent defendant is convicted and goes to prison.
  3. Guilty defendant is acquitted and goes home.
  4. Guilty defendant is convicted and goes to prison.

Options #1 or #4 are everyone’s preference. No jury wants to be involved in a case with either a #2 or a #3 outcome.

But they’re not sure. Not sure whether the defendant is guilty or not. Unsure of his innocence or his guilt, surely an internal debate on which is worse – #2 or #3 – starts in their mind.

And this is the crux of Levi’s argument. Let’s do the math.

Option 2: Innocent person is convicted and sent to prison. One person unjustifiably suffers horrible consequences

Option 3: Guilty sexual predator is initially ‘caught’ and accused, but skates. He not only goes home, but feels even more impowered to continue violating innocent children, again and again and again. Many people unjustifiably suffer horrible consequences.

Even if you throw in the innocent defendant’s friends and family members to up the number of wronged persons in Option 2, that has to be counterbalanced by an equal number of friends and family of the children who will be preyed on in the future. 

I’m not saying this happens in every case, or is discussed out loud in the jury room when it subconsciously enters the thought process. 

But taking Levi’s argument to its logical conclusion? It’s better that one innocent go to prison than one guilty person goes free. One freed guilty person will continue to victimize several future innocents. Accordingly, even a one to one ratio of innocent to guilty in prison is an acceptable rate.