Prosecuting the innocent, without consequences

Yesterday’s (Sunday’s) New York Post ran my review of Dorothy Rabinowitz’s just-out-in-softcover No Greater Tyrannies, about abuse-hysteria prosecutions. An excerpt: “In 1696, four years after the Salem executions, the Massachusetts colony held a day of contrition and collective soul-searching. Today, the persecutors seldom apologize; instead they tend to rise upward. Scott Harshbarger, D.A. in the Amirault case, went on to become attorney general of his state and now heads Common Cause, in which capacity he lectures the rest of us on ethics and good government.” (Walter Olson, “Salem Is Still With Us”, New York Post, Mar. 21). The New York Times reports that wrongful convictions, even when serious prosecutorial error or misconduct is involved and even when the accused was evidently innocent, seldom result in any career consequences for local prosecutors (Andrea Elliott and Benjamin Weiser, “When Prosecutors Err, Others Pay the Price”, New York Times, Mar. 21). And the Wall Street Journal has reprinted Ms. Rabinowitz’s column about the amazing ordeal gastroenterologist Patrick Griffin went through on charges of sexually abusing a patient, which culminated in his eventual acquittal on retrial — though by that point his medical license had been yanked and his practice was in ruins (“The Doctor’s Story”, Wall Street Journal, May 24, 2000). (via GruntDoc) (see also Jan. 8, Sept. 1)

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