Death and Justice

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Death and Justice: An expose of Oklahoma's death row machine is Mark Fuhrman's fourth book, published in 2003 by Harper Collins (ISBN 0-06-000917-9). Fuhrman is a retired Los Angeles Police Department detective most notoriously known for his role in the OJ Simpson murder trial. Subsequent to that trial, Fuhrman was convicted of perjury and is now barred from serving on the police force in most cities. He has also published Murder in Brentwood, Murder in Greenwich and Murder in Spokane. In those books, Fuhrman tells the stories of horrific homicides and applauds the heroic efforts of law enforcement agencies in solving them. That is not the case in Death & Justice.

In this book Fuhrman investigates the Oklahoma County's criminal justice system by interviewing major participants, including the forensic chemist Joyce Gilchrist and the district attorney Bob Macy, reviewing case files and trial transcripts, and examining police records. He concludes that "catastrophic errors occur in many death penalty cases".[1] Fuhrman uncovers a plethora of errors, misconduct, and general disregard for life and innocence in Oklahoma County. Despite his history as a strict "law and order" type police officer who used to be a fervent supporter of capital punishment, his book details his arguments for why death row in Oklahoma is problematic and needs to be revamped. He focuses particularly on the behavior and unwavering punitiveness of Macy and his "Black Wizard" star of a forensic chemist, Gilchrist. In his investigation into Oklahoma's death penalty machine, Fuhrman documents systematic errors in capital cases, most notably behavior that borders on prosecutorial misconduct (including Macy suborning perjury, inflaming the jury's prejudices, overzealous personal confidence in witnesses and evidence, and withholding evidence), and forensic testimony by Gilchrist that was later discovered to be untruthful, impossible, prejudicial and misleading. Fuhrman notes how the pressure to convict obscured the prosecutor's duty towards justice over conviction; in Oklahoma County, once a case was determined to be a capital case, anything less than an execution was considered failure.

Fuhrman talks not only about the prosecution team withholding evidence that could have proved the innocence of defendants, but also about the unwillingness of officials to accept the factual innocence of individuals exonerated and released from Oklahoma's death row. Fuhrman puts most of the blame for the problems in Oklahoma on Bob Macy and Joyce Gilchrist. He concludes that many of the prosecutors in there were incompetent, and were also maliciously and intentionally covering up mistakes, hiding and planting evidence, and ignoring contradictory evidence, but that Macy in particular was a force to be reckoned with, giving "fire and brimstone" closing arguments and often breaking into tears during trial.[2] Fuhrman argues that it is Macy's legacy within the prosecutor's office in Oklahoma County that has caused the rash of wrongful convictions in Oklahoma. In particular, Macy's "frontier justice" and "win at all costs" mentality have permeated the prosecutorial system and have led to a system that tolerates misconduct and perjury. He concludes that in counties like Los Angeles County, California, and Arlington, Virginia, the death row machine and the criminal justice system work, but that in Southern counties like Oklahoma County or Harris County, Texas, racism, prejudicial attitudes and the desire for revenge cause the system to falter. In order to fix the system in the South, Fuhrman suggests that executions be made public and that jurors no longer have to be "death qualified" (that is, they can be opposed to the death penalty and also sit on a jury in a capital case).

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mark Fuhrman, Death and Justice (2003), page 245
  2. ^ Mark Fuhrman, Death and Justice (2003), page 29