Saturday, August 5, 2017

How Rochester, New York Detective Fantigrossi "Leaned On Me" To Identify The Wrong Man

Carlos de Luna
Texas Executed The Wrong Man

In my mid-twenties, I was assaulted and robbed at gunpoint while driving cab in Rochester, New York.

Next morning, the RPD called me downtown to view a line-up

Although I could not positively identify anyone in that line-up, Chief Detective Fantigrossi leaned on me -- figuratively and literally - to positively identify one particular fellow who bore a general resemblance to my assailant.

When I told Fantigrossi that "I could never identify him under oath," he replied (and this is nearly verbatim): "Oh, sure you can!"

From Fantigrossi's point of view, I understand that every person in the line-up was a n'er-do-well "guilty of something," so why not "get one more thug off the street."

But the essence - the sine qua non - of American jurisprudence is that everyone, even the cruelest killer, is entitled to due process and -- if The Rule of Law is to prevail -- must be convicted of an alleged crime, and furthermore, must be duly convicted "beyond reasonable doubt." 

As my Dad pointed out: "The integrity and honorability of America's legal system will insure that many guilty people go free." 

Over the course of my life, I have come to realize that Dad's view of American due process is a fundamental determinant of a "free and open society." 

I also realize that for American conservatives -- always eager to punish "someone" -- the bitterest pill to swallow is the simultaneous rejection of prejudice and the thought that someone, somewhere, will go free rather than be punished.

 "Un Cad├íver Inesperado"
(This is the story of one of two innocent Mexican friends convicted of murder 
because local cops needed to "pin the crime" on someone. Why not a Mexican?)

"The Hard, Central Truth Of Contemporary Conservatism"

Image result for pax on both houses, bigotry safe harbor for the weak

Nearly ten years before Chief Detective Frantigrossi asked me to collude in criminality, my Dad was a member of the longest-sitting Grand Jury in Rochester, New York history. It was his jury's duty to rule on all cases arising from the Rochester Race Riots that began on July 24, 1964.

My father was a very bright, judicious man who took pains to weigh all sides of a story.

One evening, after a full day on the Grand Jury, Dad made this exasperated comment over dinner: "How can eye witnesses, with no apparent ax to grind, give antithetical testimony to the same event? It happens all the time!"

We now know from academic study that eye witnesses to "staged" robberies will positively identify the wrong perpetrator 30% of the time.

Whether or not Carlos de Luna was guilty of the Texas murder discussed in the following audio file, we now know that there was a superabundance of evidence, which - if presented at trial - would have introduced massive amounts of reasonable doubt.

The NPR blurb: "Columbia Law School professor James Liebman organized his students to re-investigate a murder case which led to the execution of Carlos De Luna. They found evidence that they believe proves that the state of Texas executed the wrong man."  (Update: Sadly, this link is no longer active. Here is an alternative:

Compendium Of Best Pax Posts On Miscarriage Of Justice And Misplaced Punishment

"The Deadly Oppression Of Black People: Best Pax Posts"

"Bad Black People." Why Bill O'Reilly Is Wrong Even When He's Right

"To Kill A Mockingbird's" Harper Lee On The Bible As An Obstacle To Living

I also recommend the following New Yorker article, "Trial by Fire," which probes the case of Cameron Todd Willingham who was executed for killing his two children by arson.

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