As always, the last Last week tonight the episode didn’t pack a punch in addressing current issues that most would consider “sensitive” or “controversial.” After presenting the most significant news of the week, which mainly concerned the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the host of the HBO program John Olivier moved on to the main topic of the episode: justice, or rather, how justice in the United States has systemic flaws that often lead to wrongful convictions.
After a joke about how the American TV celebrity Steve Harvey had a great way of delivering justice, which leads to Oliver owning a golden gavel for the rest of the show, the presenter cites a number of ways trials can go wrong. This brings us to the issue of appeals and how they should be used as a remedy for wrongful convictions. However, in reality, appeals are often a messy process that either doesn’t work or gets rejected for technicalities. Even with “irrefutable evidence of [one’s] innocence”, as a confession of the true culprit, which should serve as a card for “free from prison”, it is sometimes not taken into consideration and outright rejected. Unfortunately, as Oliver says, “life is not a game of Monopoly”.
Since he couldn’t be ignored while speaking on the matter, Oliver brings up how the constitution guarantees the writ of habeas corpus, which establishes an individual’s right to report their unlawful imprisonment to a court. However, as always, Oliver breaks down the practical concept until we figure out why it’s not working so that ultimately we can have an idea or at least some direction on how to fix it.
Another reason why appeals don’t work, as Oliver explains, is that not all lawyers are competent. Post-conviction law is so complex that it can be difficult for even a seasoned attorney to understand it all, and state-provided attorneys may not be properly equipped to deal with the complexities of an appeal. . As far as the law currently works, a simple technicality can result in the dismissal of a justified appeal.
In this episode, Oliver gives a number of real-life examples that happened in America, some of which are so frustrating that they seem to go against common sense. Some of them include cases of appeals which were rejected even when there was a confession by the true perpetrator and cases of confessions extracted by force from innocent individuals. As Oliver concludes, voting for “tough on crime” laws like the AEDPA (Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act) was a mistake that should be corrected. In the words of the host: “At that point, it really feels like our system is basically ‘guilty until it’s proven to be rich or lucky.’ And that has to change. , because we cannot continue to let the most vulnerable be the victims of a system that cares more about quick and definitive decisions than really correct decisions.That is my verdict, and that is how I see it.
You watch the full segment here:
Oliver makes a poignant argument for decriminalizing sex work.
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