Some time ago I wrote on the Innocence Project — how Griffith University in Queensland says of their Innocence Project:
We are committed to freeing innocent persons who have been wrongly convicted in Australia. We will take on cases where initial investigations support inmates' assertions that they have been wrongly convicted and where innocence may be established through the use of DNA technology.
Quoted is Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter: "Freedom is something that can be taken for granted. Until it is taken away."
Griffith University Innocence Project Mission Statement states: .. a project committed to freeing innocent persons who have been wrongly convicted. By working to correct failures in our criminal justice system, the Project will foster an Australian legal culture that champions the defence of the innocent, and helps protect the marginalised and oppressed. Through working with law students, the Project will invest in lawyers of the future who uphold the values of truth in justice.
I have written previously on a similar project in the US where multiple cases have now been reviewed on the evidence of DNA and seen those who had been incarcerated for sometimes up to 42 years, freed — most were black — and those involved in the original process were themselves dead, long retired or themselves blamed the process, the era, the culture and anything else that came to mind.
As a result of these and other similar cases a flood of articles, books, documentaries, television dramas and films have been produced but recent evidence suggests that nothing much has improved in hat once the system gets you, it's very difficult for the system to admit they got it wrong in the first instance.
A courts' admission that injustice had been perpetrated and financial compensation paid, is hardly justice when someone's life had been taken from them by being falsely imprisoned, but more so, the damage it has done to one's soul that restitution of good-character is impossible.
It's never the same
I wrote of this in an article titled "It's never the same" detailing specific examples in both the secular and Christian world. Reverend Dr Rowland Croucher the Pastor's Pastor of John Mark Ministries speaks of this in great detail in his research, more so, of those who have been falsely accused involving political games to sideline someone.
What is sadly hidden in all of this, are the after effects on those who have been cleared having spent, what amounts to be a life time, or a portion of a life time, incarcerated when truly innocent. Rarely if ever does one come back as if nothing happened, as portrayed in the fictional television series "Life" where a police detective was found to have been framed and jailed for 12 years (conviction for murder).
Perhaps the best fictional television drama of the after effects of someone innocent of a murder who served 18 years in prison comes from the latest MidSummer Murder shows with Chief Inspector John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon) a younger cousin, who took over from the retired Tom Barnaby (John Nettles).
This program was titled "Murder of Innocence" and the description is as follows: When a barrister is killed in Midsomer, suspicion falls on convicted murderer Grady Felton. Grady has just returned to the village of Binwell where he committed the murder years ago amid much anger from locals. But Grady has a solid alibi. Barnaby suspects he is working with an accomplice — until Grady himself is targeted in an arson attack."
It turns out that Grady Felton was innocent, he spent 18 years in prison, and realising there was no way to prove this, he set up a double for himself who returned to Binwell and was harassed by the locals. Meanwhile the real Grady Felton now disguised as a physical trainer with a local thriving business, set about taking revenge on all those who played a part in sending him down. Seven are murdered in this process, but he wasn't the culprit. The final scene his former girl friend of 18 years ago, proved to be the real murderer, he knew nothing about her vengeance.
John Barnaby realising the gross injustice of what had occurred all those years ago, and the subsequent consequences of that original injustice, is beside himself in grief and the realisation that the injustice of 18 years previously had seen seven people lose their lives.
I've not seen this "it's never the same" portrayed as well as on this MidSummers program. It bought home the critical importance of getting things right beyond a reasonable doubt and such projects as Griffith University's "Innocence Project" and similar projects around the world. When the system gets it wrong, then righted, the outcomes are unpredictable — some recognise now that US mass shootings (work places and schools) are an offshoot of this sense of rejection.
In recent years in the US many have been released under a plea bargain after spending in one case, 42 years in prison, for a fire he did not lite that took the lives of 29 people in 1970. In Australia a number of celebrated cases have been aired in the media.
Dr Rowland Croucher has spoken of this in another sense, when Christian and Mission leaders have been falsely accused. They have a sense of utter aggrievement with emotional devastation. We live in a dark dark world where as Jeremiah exclaimed, that even our righteousness is as filthy rags. Who could afford to trust anyone today in the church, missions or elsewhere?
If the Cross and the Resurrection means anything, they mean an ultimate opening of the spread sheet of life where a great calm and peace endures. Rick and Kay Warren spoke of this after Matthew their son took his own life, writing of his son's inner pain the means whereby he might seek such refuge: "I'll never forget how, many years ago, after another approach had failed to give relief, Matthew said, 'Dad, I know I'm going to heaven. Why can't I just die and end this pain?' but he kept going for another decade."
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html