Veteran journalist Stanley Cohen has taught writing, journalism, and philosophy at Hunter College. In the first half, he discussed his research into how every day, innocent people across America are thrown into prison, betrayed by a faulty justice system, and robbed of their lives-- either by decades-long sentences or the death penalty itself. He covered some of the hundreds of cases he's examined where injustice has tarnished our legal process from start to finish. Regarding capital convictions, it's estimated that between 4 and 10% of inmates on Death Row and in solitary confinement are actually innocent, he reported. "There seems to be no doubt that the United States has incarcerated more people than any place on Earth, which is kind of staggering when you think of the populations (of other larger countries)," he noted.
There are a number of reasons that lead to wrongful convictions, starting with "official misconduct" which typically implies intentional or unintentional judicial, police, or prosecutorial error, he cited. Advancement in the district attorney's office comes from getting convictions, and police officers benefit from getting "collars," he further explained. One way to fix the problem is to stop rewarding the prosecution for convictions, and instead reward them for facilitating a fair and just verdict, he suggested.
Cohen also advocated for the banning of capital punishment. While the issue has long been politicized, and part of the 'tough on crime' rhetoric, it has been conclusively shown that the death penalty does not serve as a deterrent, he remarked. All industrial nations besides America have abolished it, but the US has the fifth highest rate of executions behind China, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran, he added.
Midweek Open Lines were featured in the second half, with a number of callers reacting to issues raised in the first half. Joseph from Fairfield, CA spoke about the case of an African-American man at a Walmart store who was holding a toy gun that was from the product shelves man and was shot and killed by police officers. Two callers commented on the plans to put life-size replicas of the ancient Temple of Baal in several cities around the world, including New York. Logan described growing up in a haunted house that was built in the 1920s in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles. Several housekeepers quit over the years because they sensed the eerie presence of a male figure watching them in the kitchen. Logan himself saw a male apparition: "Everything inside the outline...looked like when you saw a puddle of water in the street with [swirling] oil mixed in it," he recalled.