No one should face a death sentence because the headlights of a truck captured on grainy surveillance footage might just possibly be his. Or because he doesn’t like to be on the phone a lot. Or four years after an event, he can’t recall exactly where he was on a random selection of days. Or that he had economic challenges. Or that he liked to play poker. Or that he was a bit of a luddite, so what would otherwise have been easily explained QB activity, becomes a focus of an investigation-where if only investigators had dug a little deeper, they might have seen it was nothing really at all.
Not one piece of evidence presented at the preliminary hearing for this case survived the first few weeks of trial.
And yet a trial progressed, absent any new evidence. And a conviction was had.
Loved ones of the McStays may feel better in the short term. There appears to be a universal belief in that camp as to Merritt’s guilt. But if they are wrong, then what? What if years from now they discover that the wrong man paid for these murder and they were unwitting accomplices to the kind of harm that was done to them? And this has happened, many times before. The conservative estimate is that 4% of those on death row are innocent. Sounds like so few, until you know one of the innocent. Or are one of them.
If there had been an acquittal, at least then this tragedy wouldn’t have been compounded by yet, one more victim. Chase Merritt will never get back the years stolen from him, even if his case is overturned soon. And those who loved the McStays will certainly feel cheated of a justice they believed in. One that has evaded them for so long. And, I am convinced, evades them still.
This is why it is so important that investigators and prosecutors focus less on winning and more on making absolutely certain they have it right. Please. Be more careful, is what I would say, if I could say it directly to them. Because life is that precious. No one should ever build a career on the devastation and unnecessary misery of others. If justice matters, this should matter. People. Life. Matter.
When we allow these types of flimsy prosecutions to move forward- No. One. Wins.