The Crown Prosecution Service has said that “Barry George now has the right to be regarded as an innocent man”.
The arrogance is sickening. He has not some “right to be regarded” as an innocent man. He is an innocent man.
You can read their statement here.
As always with The Powerful, it just does “not compute” with the CPS and the Metropolitan Police that they got it horrifyingly wrong. One expects that they will now close the case, with the snide implication that the guilty man got away with it.
I am sure that some within the Metropolitan Police also think Jean Charles de Menezes now has "right to be regarded" as an innocent man. It would of course be too late for him, given that they killed him first.
Barry George is clearly not the sort of man you would want to have pretending to be your cousin. He was a nuisance to local women. In the old days, he would be the “village idiot” (then regarded with real fear rather than just some colourful figure of fun). Even his defence team accepted he was the local nutter. But there was no reason to think he was a killer.
(I do not, however, accept that it was clearly a professional job. All because there were no witnesses to a day time murder can be more to do with luck than judgment. That said, I understand Mr George needed help putting film into a camera; he probably would not have managed even a bungled killing.)
One should fear when The Powerful are certain that you are in the wrong.
The role of scientific evidence
Scientific evidence should only rarely be determinative of guilt of a criminal offence. By determinative I mean that a person would not have been convicted but for the scientific evidence. But many have been, and justice is miscarried each time the expert gets it wrong.
Expert scientific evidence just sits uneasily with the criminal justice system. (Civil trials are slightly less prone to such mistakes, as both parties can have their own experts who just cancel each other out.)
No one involved in a criminal trial is particularly well equipped to evaluate scientific evidence, especially the lawyers. (The only lawyers with any proper grasp of science are off making fortunes in tiresome patent litigation.) The expert pronounces, the hushed court defers, and a man or woman is deemed a murderer.
So Sion Jenkins was wrongly convicted for the murder of Billie-Jo Jenkins on the basis of a similarly discredited speck. And one shudders when one thinks of the awful “Professor” Roy Meadows and his hapless statistics, wrecking the lives of already bereaved parents.
Experts with their "scientific evidence" can also distort the criminal justice process at earlier stages. Many of us can recall the role of Paul Britton in the potential gross miscarriage of justice in the prosecution of Colin Stagg.
A skeptic in the courtroom
One can mock psychic investigators, such as Diane Lazarus, who seek to help the police. She claims to have helped in the Barry George case. (A tip of Jack's hat to John Jackson at the Skeptic Forum for spotting that one.)
Personally, I would prefer Diane Lazarus to Paul Britton.
But the police usually ignore such unsolicited psychic help.
On the other hand, it can be scientific evidence which leads to wrong convictions. The very kind of evidence which a skeptic supposedly endorses, not “woo” or "psychic" evidence. But like “psychic” evidence, scientific evidence creates false hopes and gives false closure to bereaved families.
Skepticism always should be deployed against any supposed “certainty” with adverse consequences wider than a mere matter of opinion.
One should not only be skeptical of the woo stuff, the easy stuff, but also the hard stuff. All because it is scientific evidence, it doesn’t make it right.
Courts need to realise the limitations of scientific evidence and develop a better way of evaluating it. Such evidence should not be treated with awe and only in limited circumstances should it determine guilt.
There really needs to be a skeptic in the courtroom.