Making a case
The only task juries are charged with, Poston said, is determining whether the evidence they’re shown proves “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the defendant is guilty of the crime or crimes the person is charged with.
“It is not at all unusual for jurors to tell us, after they have voted not guilty, that they believed or even ‘knew’ that the defendant was guilty, but did not believe the evidence was sufficient to prove his guilt,” Poston said.
In some cases, the defendant may have committed the crime and still got off without a sentence. In those cases, even some defense attorneys agree, the accused might think the time in jail and money used to fight the charges were well spent if it gets the person out of an even stiffer sentence.
If the defendant actually committed the crime and happened to get a favorable ruling from a jury, victims might find a measure of comfort in knowing the person at least had to spend some time in jail — even if it was only while awaiting court proceedings — and that the person at least lost a significant amount of money — even if it was to fight the charges rather than to pay court-ordered fines and restitution.
Yet if the defendant really didn’t commit the crime, authorities are responsible for stealing significant amounts of time, money and social status from a person who didn’t deserve to be punished in any way.
In the cases of Green, Cordova, Ward and Henry, prosecutors or law enforcement officials have continued to maintain that the defendants were guilty.
Poston said it’s rarely the case that he finds an innocent person has been arrested, but there are a significant number of cases in which it would be difficult to prove guilt. He said he and a team of experienced lawyers who work for him review each of the roughly 3,000 cases that come before them each year and move forward with prosecution on about two-thirds of them.