Judicial error is inevitable (the more sophisticated the means of evidence, the more sophisticated the misjudgments will be), but the fallibility of Brazilian justice has the aggravating circumstance of insensitivity, lack of intelligence and racism.
The Criminal Procedure Code establishes a rite for the recognition of suspects. The person to be recognized must first describe the person to be recognized. The person to be recognized must be placed alongside others who have similarities with him.
The rule is simple, but it is corrupted under the pathetic and tolerant eye of judges and prosecutors absolutely uncommitted to the search for the real truth.
What was supposed to be a police duty becomes a “recommendation”. A means of proof that should be received with extreme caution —the recognition of people promotes mistakes due to memory confusions, psychological injunctions and official induction— is practiced lightly and recklessly.
The series of reports Innocents Prisoners, published in Folha in recent weeks, counts 100 cases of wrongful imprisonment, spread throughout almost the entire country. It is an embarrassing display of the moral and technological bankruptcy of the judiciary.
Journalistic work of breath, increasingly rare, a year of research, reporters gather testimonies and discover the effects of procedural flaws, Kafkaesque omissions, “jet investigations”, falsehoods, abuses of power and illegalities capable of silently interrupting the lives of ordinary and invariably poor people.
The survey includes the release of 42 people recognized by victims or witnesses as perpetrators of crimes they did not commit and 25 people who were misidentified by police officers, among other cases of false testimony, illicit evidence and injustice.
These are small tragedies: innocent people who remain for days, months or years in the prison system due to the incompetence and negligence of the police, prosecutors and magistrates.
The humiliation is infinite and reparation impossible: this is what is inferred from the narrative of the assistant general taken from Mogi das Cruzes, in the interior of São Paulo, to Bahia, where his innocence would be decreed after a thousand days of unjustifiable imprisonment.
The street vendor’s explanation, victim of misrecognition, reveals the simple anatomy of police abuse: “Here I was and four other white guys. You’re looking for a black, the only black guy there. The others there are lighter than me. And will you say who is who?”.
There is a common thread between judicial error and police lethality, another aberration of public security in Brazil: racism.
Of the hundred innocent prisoners identified by the series of leaf, 60 are black.
The police in Rio de Janeiro, when acting in Ipanema, do not usually act like bandits, shooting at random and invading homes. It is estimated that around 80% of those killed in police operations in Rio’s favelas are black. Most of the innocent women and children hit by stray bullets, like Kathlen Romeu, last Tuesday (15), are black.
Blacks are treated by the Brazilian police and judicial system as inferior, dangerous and suspicious people. The accusatory word always prevails.
Bolsonaro exacerbates barbarism by working for the impunity of the murderous and corrupt police officer and conspiring against the security forces’ control mechanisms.
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