Sunday, September 28, 2008

Wrongfully convicted in Berrien County; nothing new

Paredes will soon have a proper day in court HP, 9/27


I read with interest the response of the Berrien County prosecutor to the proposed commutation hearing for Efren Paredes, who I’ve worked for on a pro bono basis as a private investigator.

I would start by saying that the halls of justice are littered with the bodies of the wrongfully convicted, the wrongfully accused and of course the thousands of family members who stood by and got swept away in the national disgrace of prosecutorial and police misconduct. There are over 1,000 cases of this type that have occurred in the United States in the past 20 years.

Is Berrien County immune from this phenomenon? I hardly think so. The conviction of Parades is classic. Take a hot-button issue like the coldblooded murder of a well-liked and respected local white businessman and mix it with racial undertones, motivated informants, sloppy investigation and super aggressive prosecutors and police investigators and you get a wrongfully convicted person.

The classic fallback position is that we play the victim card.

Trot out the widow, friends and neighbors of the victim and play to the sympathy and outrage of the community. The prosecutors want you to look at the widow and not the evidence. The evidence would suggest that Parades is innocent.

The victim and the victims’ family members are often sold this bill of goods, and of course they adopt the prosecutor’s position. Lost in all this is the ruined life of Efren and his family. Where is the outrage of the treatment of this family?

In the very near future there will be a public hearing that will allow people to speak on behalf of Efren Paredes. The state has had its way for almost two decades in this matter. The fairy tale that has been promoted to the victim’s family and the courts is going to be exposed. All that Efren has ever asked for is an even playing field. That day is rapidly approaching.

Paul J. Ciolino Chicago