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Sunday, September 24, 2023


Innocent inmates victims of broken system

The specter of the inherent and incompetent criminal justice system tells stories of something special happening in, of all places, Texas.’

For the past three years, news reports have revealed that dozens of people in Texas have been convicted of violent crimes they did not commit. Among those cases is that of Alfredo Guardiola, the classic false confession and conviction story.’

Guardiola was subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury to testify about a house fire on Aug. 29, 1990. Guardiola’s sister, Alejandra Quintanilla, drove him to the courthouse in downtown Houston.

‘Four people had died despite the rescue efforts of Guardiola and several other men who had rushed from neighboring houses to help. He wasn’t a suspect. Prosecutors said they just wanted him to recount for the grand jury what he saw the night of the fire,’ Dave Mann wrote in the Texas Observer. ‘Still, the subpoena made Quintanilla nervous. Her brother was a gentle man and a heroin addict, and she feared the police would take advantage of him.’

A six-month investigation of Guardiola’s case conducted by the Texas Observer, dealing with arson and false confessions, showed that Guardiola was probably innocent. Prominent experts who reviewed his case concluded that the fire was accidental.’

If the fire was accidental, then no crime was committed. Unreliable forensic evidence, along with an exhaustive interrogation, led an innocent man to confess to a crime he did not commit.

To put his suffering into perspective, Guardiola was interrogated for 13 hours straight. There was no evidence against him, and he shouldn’t have been in custody if there was no probable cause.’ The investigators just decided to handcuff and transfer him to arson division headquarters where he was subjected to a two-hour-long lie detector test.

Lie detectors are unreliable ‘-they have an error rate of about 40 percent ‘- which is why they cannot be used as evidence. They are mainly used to manipulate defendants into confessing.

‘They scared the hell out of me,’ Guardiola said, adding that the confession was forced and made up. To no one’s surprise, the investigators denied the mistreatment.’

The division of fire investigation and the study of false confessions have both evolved considerably. Most of the evidence used in Guardiola’s case in 1993 is no longer reliable. The long interrogation, the use of a polygraph, and an easily manipulated suspect all point the finger to an investigation team itching to wrap up a case in haste.’

Texas state prisons are labeled as brutal and inhumane, where prisoners are gang-raped, beaten and extorted by other prisoners, while pleas for protection are met with a lack of concern by the prison officials. To make matters worse, imagine if this corruption was directed toward the innocent prisoners.

The miscarriages of justice in Texas raise doubts about our criminal justice system’s ability to point out the difference between those who commit a crime and those innocent individuals who fall victims to misconception.’

The justice system is incredibly flawed ‘- too flawed to gamble with people’s lives. A false confession and faulty arson science sent a man to prison for 19 years and counting; does that not set off an alarm? When the right to govern and be governed restricts the liberty, life and freedom of the innocent, justice must be then reevaluated.’

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