The rantings of a Public Defender constantly fighting against society's pervasive Police Industrial Complex. Enjoy the unique perspective of one whose life's work is to fight the system through the system.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

I’ve often said what I think about police officer opinion “expert” testimony. I think it is the greatest fraud in the criminal courts, and fraud certainly exists. The greatest that I can think of right now (and that’s probably because it’s most raw) is so-called gang experts. These are the greatest bullshit artists in courts that I’ve ever seen. Today’s was perhaps the most incredible load of junk that I’ve seen in a while.

Just about every gang expert I have seen spouts so much bullshit it could fill the room, and yet everyone acts as if everything is perfectly normal. You see, the legislature has enacted several bits of legislation over the years to nail gang members. Commit a crime “for the benefit of a gang?” You get an extra 5 years in state prison, perhaps 10 extra years. So, what is “for the benefit” of a gang? One might think it is really something that helps the gang, like killing someone for the gang, supplying it with guns or drugs, being the enforcer, something of the sort.

What do prosecutors file gang enhancements for? Just about everything a gang member does. So how are they able to make these charges stick, at least until trial (which is all that matters, since once a jury hears someone is a gang member and all the bad things gangs can do, you can bet that they suspend just about all “reasonable doubt” requirements in a case)? Well, they get past preliminary hearing by putting up this gang “expert” who says that just about everything one does is for the benefit for a street gang. Use drugs? It’s for the benefit of the person’s gang (regardless of how active the person may be, they do everything for the benefit of the gang. There is no such thing as an “inactive” gang member in their book). Do a little street robbery for drug money? It’s for the benefit of the gang. Hit your wife, own a gun, fart in public, have a job, drive a nice car, it doesn’t matter, it’s for the benefit of the gang. I am surprised they don’t file jaywalking tickets with gang allegations so that they can give these kids 5 years for spitting on the sidewalk or something of the sort.

Now, I’m not saying that doing bad stuff doesn’t deserve punishment. If the law says that a robbery deserves 5 years as a max, 2 years as a minimum, and you can show aggravation due to gang ties, then by all means, give the person 5 years for doing it if they really did do it. If the law says 10 more years for using a gun, then give the person 10 more years. But this junk opinion stuff of everything being done for the benefit of the gang and giving people 5 or 10 more years as a result, and basing it on this pseudo political opinion junk is just absurd. In fact, it is an insult to the legal system. Cops turn themselves into dishonest testifiers (ie – perjurers, and as a result, criminals) as a result. Think about it, if you are the local police force, you thrive on a fear of crime. The more fear, the more money, the more money, the more police officers, the more police officers, the more power, etc….

It’s even better for gang crimes. There is a lot of federal money doled out to local police and prosecutors for prosecuting gang crime. If they can show that a crime is a gang crime, then they have higher gang stats, and more federal and state gang money. It pays to have every crime considered a gang crime.

And who really gives a damn about the evil criminal anyways? Let them rot away in prison forever, kill them, just get them away from us. Forget the fact that they’re human, that they are not all evil, that they may have done bad, but not so bad, that they are not (hold your breath, because I’m not joking here, but I know it’s a foreign concept in 21st century US of A) beyond redemption. You see, put them in a quality prison, that stresses something beyond making them into better criminals, and believe it or not, you may actually turn some of them into good people. Of course, to do that, you have to increase, rather than decrease, the amount of education funding that goes into prisons (sayeth the right wing: “screw them, they shouldn’t get any school funding while people on the outside are struggling”), you have to increase job training (sayet the right wing: “screw them, they shouldn’t be rewarded for going to prison while others do without”), drug rehabilitation (right wingers: “drug use is a crime, they can stop the old fashion way, they can go to church,” unless they’re beloved right wing talk show hosts, of course).

Anyways, just another wonderful day at the office, watching another win for our idiotic prison and police industrial complex.