The Discrimination Disparity Continuum.

The discrimination disparity continuum is a term used to describe and capture all manner of criminal justice flaws that have led to the prosecution and conviction of supposedly innocent victims. The justice system in society is supposed to punish lawbreakers according to the statutes that have been provided for different offences that someone can commit. Conviction of an individual accused of committing an offence should strictly be based on the evidence presented to the court. The court should be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of the offence committed as per the evidence. Though these guidelines are available and are supposed to be the guide for the justice system, there have been cases when there have been a miscarriage of justice, which has led to the conviction of individuals by oversight or by design by the prosecution. Thus, different categories of these problems have been categorized under the Discrimination-Disparity Continuum as revealed in the paper.


The Discrimination-Disparity continuum is divided into five categories that are used to place the different cases of injustice. The different discrimination continuums include:

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  • Systematic discrimination, which refers to discrimination at all levels of the justice systems that happen in all places.
  • Institutionalized discrimination, which refers to discrimination based on race and ethnicity with reference to institutional records. It can become a source of stereotyping.
  • Contextual discrimination, which is the discrimination found using certain information to incriminate and convict an individual.
  • Individual acts of discrimination, which refers to discrimination perpetuated by an individual. It is not found in the system as a whole.
  • Pure justice In this case, no form of discrimination is evident.

Most cases of discrimination reported in the criminal justice system are always due to omission on the part of the prosecution by design or by default. So many cases that have been profiled of individuals convicted of offences they had not committed, and only after new evidence and information is acquired, they are left off the hook. This case depicts injustice being meted by the justice system because such individuals end up paying a price for a crime not committed. Some are known to have stayed behind bars for as much as half their lifetime before they are freed. Such a case is that of Bill Macumber who was accused in 1974 of the murder of a young couple way back in 1962, which was shot to death. The murder trial had grown cold. He was arrested on the premise of information provided by his wife who worked at the sheriffs office. By then, they were not in good terms. His wife reported him as having confessed to the murder to her thus leading his arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment. Macumber was 40years then. By the time of Macumbers conviction, he was a 40-year-old father of two. After the conviction, he was never to see his children. Statistical findings indicate that, since the inception of the use of the DNA in revision of convictions, there have been 302 exonerates who have been found to have been wrongly convicted (Innocent Project, n.d). In the case of Macumber, several glaring issues with regard to the operation of the law were cited as having been the main contributors to his conviction and subsequent imprisonment. At the time Macumber was arrested for the murder, the crime had happened over ten years ago. The investigation had gone cold on the case due to lack of any leading clues. It should also be noted that, by at the time of Macumbers arrest, his wife was working as part of the staff at the Sherriffs office and that she had just completed a short course successfully on . Another notable fact was that Macumber was not in good terms with his wife who was the only and main source of evidence that convicted him. She informed the authorities that he had confessed to her as having committed the killings. In doing justice, all facts on the table as well as possible facts have to be interrogated properly before a conclusion can be made. The investigating office and the prosecution failed to interrogate whether there was malice from Macumbers wife in her allegations despite the fact that the two were not in good terms. Thus, the accusations could be due to the then bad blood between the two. An assumption that can be made in this case is that Macumbers wife used her connections in the Sheriffs office to implicate her husband. From a professional view, Macumbers wife had access to sensitive files for investigation, and that she might have taken her time to study the files and devise a way of fixing her husband in this case. This type of discrimination is known as individual discrimination (Innocent Project, n.d). Another fact contributing strongly to this case should be the fact that Macumbers wife had just undergone finger print techniques training. Using her newly acquired expertise, she might have picked Macumbers fingerprints and planted them on to the evidence that had been previously collected. Such facts were never looked at during the trial thus making this trial a contextual discrimination type of continuum. The judiciary has been mandated in law to offer justice. In doing so, all factors have to be checked properly not to punish an innocent person. Macumbers two appeals for his conviction were turned down. It was only 38 years later when the organization namely Innocent Project took up the case that restored justice to Macumber (Innocent Project, n.d). Even after this effort, he was not released because he was innocent but because the prosecutors office allowed him to enter a no-contest exercise to the charges due to technical aspects of the law that could not allow him to be declared innocent though all facts pointed to him being innocent. During his trial, Thomas OToole-an attorney for convicted Valenzuela- offered to testify in defense of Macumber. However, the judge could not allow him due to a legal technicality. In his letter to Judge Charles Hardy, he offered to give evidence that was exonerating Macumber because his client Valenzuela had confessed to him that he actually did the killing. By this time, Valenzuela was already dead having died from a fight in prison. The judge declined to admit OTooles evidence citing the attorney client relationship privilege that allowed an attorneys client to confide to the attorney. This case therefore denied the jury the knowledge of such information thus leading to the passing of a guilty verdict, which effectively sent Macumber to jail with reduced options for appeal. The most interesting thing is that Macumber had never had a prior arrest for any reason leave alone the most minor in terms of a traffic ticket (Innocent Project, n.d). This information was never put into consideration. Furthermore, the judge who knew the contents of the letters sent to him by OToole went ahead to convict him. Technically, he knew Macumber was innocent thus qualifying the case as a disparity continuum with regard to the interpretation and application of the law, which is supposed to defend the rights of individuals. Therefore, the judges conviction of Macumber can be categorized under the contextual disparity continuum. At the end of the day, Macumber wasted the rest of his productive life in prison. When he was released, he was already too old to pick up from where he left and without a family.

Historical Data

There are several causes for wrongful conviction. They range from eyewitness misidentification, false confession, poor legal representation, junk science, misconduct on the side of the police, and prosecution and snitch testimony. The biggest amount of statistics on wrongful convictions has come from DNA exonerations because this has been the only way that has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the wrong person was convicted (Roman, Walsh, & Lachman, 2012, p. 2). Since the advent of DNA use, there have been over 302 exonerations since the year 1989. The bulk of the exonerations happened since the year 2000 with 235 exonerations being recorded. This finding can be attributed to a much wider application of technology compared to when the technology was sparsely used. Out of the 302 persons, 18 of them were on death row while 16 of them had been convicted on capital offences, which attract sentence to either long prison terms or life sentence (Innocent Project, n.d). The above named sources have been cited as the most contributory factors eyewitness misidentification taking the bulk of this problem because it contributes to about 75% of the cases. On the other hand, the problem of the discrimination-disparity continuum has been viewed to take a racial and ethnic dimension concerning the number of people from different groups who have been known to suffer from the problem. According to the Innocent Project tabulations, out of the 302 exonerations, the race distribution was as follows:

  • 188 African Americans
  • 86 Caucasian
  • 21 Latinos
  • 2 Asians
  • 5 Unknown race

The findings above indicate that African Americans suffered most from the problem with a 62% rate, Caucasians came second with 28%, Latinos followed with 6%, Asians 0.7%, and unknown race came at 1.6%. This information shows that the problem had racism leanings, which implicated the whole system due to the high numbers recorded (Innocent Project, n.d). This case can be categorized as institutionalized discrimination. In the case of Macumber, he can be categorized under the Caucasian group, which came second. These flaws in the criminal justice system have seen many innocent people go to jail for crimes they have not committed thus depicting a great deal of injustice. The DNA testing and verification system has come in handy for proving persons innocent. However, it still is not adequate because it only relies on DNA collection and testing (Roman, Walsh, & Lachman, 2012, p. 2). The absence of DNA can therefore not save an innocent person. In the case of Macumber, there was no DNA exoneration because it was not part of the evidence. He was released after lobbying by the innocent group campaigner who on matter of fact proved him innocent though he was guilty according to law and admissibility of evidence.

Current Situation

Currently, the criminal justice is working very hard to stem such cases due to the bad publicity it has attracted towards the whole system. This case paints the system as being incompetent and biased in matters of justice and fairness. Some of the people exonerated have filed for compensation from the relevant authorities. They have thus been awarded hefty compensations. The criminal justice system has also been spurred into developing watertight systems that are used to conduct investigations and prosecutions so that innocent people do not suffer while the right people are arrested and sentenced as they deserve. There is a continued research on many perceived innocent cases. More and more of them will keep on coming up as long they can prove that the persons are guilty.


The discrimination disparity continuum has been able to expose the flaws in the justice systems, which have led to the conviction of wrong people for mistakes they have not committed. The problem is when a wrong person is convicted. The criminal who has committed that act is left free to possibly commit more crimes. The problem as it is today cannot be possibly eradicated. However, it can be reduced so that less and less people are caught in the situation. A solution to this case can be placed in the prosecutors office that is supposed to interrogate all possible avenues before they can prosecute a case. The psychology of most prosecutors is that they prosecute to win because any conviction secured is a win to them. They should therefore work as hard to prove to themselves that the accused are actually guilty. Otherwise, the problem of discrimination disparity continuum is here to stay.

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