As a believer in karma, I do not take pleasure in the misfortune of others, especially when that misfortune occurs on the legal professional stage. Yet when a prosecution mistake resulted in a mistrial in the Rogers Clemens case many weeks ago, I could not suppress my delight. Here was a case where the federal government opted to spend millions of dollars and waste countless hours prosecuting a former baseball player for allegedly making false statements to Congress. Given the current congressional quagmire and lack of any reliable information coming from our government representatives, the fact that someone was prosecuted for lying to Congress is just ridiculous. The fact that it involved baseball-related issues which affect approximately zero percent of the U.S. population made it even more ridiculous. And when the government prosecution went down in flames due to a horrendous and amateurish mistake, I admit to rejoicing.
My rancor towards the U.S. government in the Clemens case is not due to any type of appreciation or fandom for Clemens. Instead it comes from a substantial amount of frustration with how this country has evolved into a conviction machine. In a review on the collateral effects of convictions on employment opportunities, Michelle Rodriguez and Maurice Emsellem of the National Employment Law Project reported that 65 million Americans have a criminal conviction. 65 million! That is one in every four adult Americans. In the wake of advanced technologies for background checks, employers are now easily equipped to review the criminal backgrounds of job applicants. And if a potential job comes down to a choice between the applicant without any convictions and an applicant with a conviction, who is going to lose every time? As Rodriguez and Emsellem go on to report, 65 million Americans are effectively blocked from working as a result of their convictions.