Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The true face of the war on drugs

I know that this case is not typical, in that it involves prescription drugs rather than "illegal street" drugs, but far as I'm concerned, the issues are the exact same.

John Tierney writes today in the NYTimes about Richard Paey, a man who became disabled after getting into a traffic accident and who has been in severe pain ever since. As a result, he's become addicted to the pain killers that allow him to do things such as, say eat dinner with his family or go to his kid's school play. It also resulted in his arrest and conviction for, get this, drug trafficking (it is considered automatically drug trafficking since it was over one ounce, which was about one prescription, not because he ever sold, which the Florida prosecutors concede he never did). This evil, dangerous criminal is now serving a 25 year sentence, the mandatory minimum under Florida law (according to the DA, the sentence is probably not appropriate for his situation, but he deserves it since he turned down first a no jail offer, then a 5 year offer, so it's all his fault he's serving 25 years).

Of course, prior to these evil actions by this despicable person, he was a University of Pennsylvania law school grad (unable to take the bar due to his accident), and his wife is an opthamologist, so you can understand that it's important to make sure that someone like this stays behind bars as long as possible to keep our society safe (at least I guess that the prosecutor would say something like this).

Think about it, this case is the symbol of evil, not by the defendant, but by government. When this happens, it is not a free society, it is a barbaric society. Sure, the government didn't try to chop off his limbs for stealing bread, or behead him for blasphemy, but the difference is fairly minor.

Do you want to know the cruelest irony? Apparently he now gets all of the medication that he needs while in prison. They have him hooked up to a morphine pump so he's better medicated than he was on the outside. Our society imprisons people for relieving their pain in order to relieve their pain.

Absolutely sick and evil, I'm disgusted, but of course, it's not so atypical. The only difference is that here they nailed a white, upper middle class educated person rather than the boatload of poor minorities that they usually warehouse for the rest of their lives for doing little wrong.

Read more about the case here and here.

Anyone want to try and defend this idiocy. I'm sure there will be some hyper-conservative who will try to do so, but before you do so, don't forget about that conservative icon, Rush Limbaugh, who will certainly never receive a sentence of 25 years (conservatives don't do prison), but who probably committed far more insidious wrongdoing than this person did.


123txpublicdefender123 said...

I could barely get through that article without vomiting--it makes me so ill. What the hell has gone wrong in this country?

Windypundit said...

"Scott Andringa, the prosecutor in the case, acknowledged that the 25-year mandatory penalty was harsh, but he said Mr. Paey was to blame for refusing a plea bargain that would have kept him out of jail."

So the guy who could have reduced the charges at any time says the harsh sentence is somehow the other guy's fault?

Wife-beaters everywhere think exactly the same way: If she just did what I told her, I wouldn't have to beat her.

123txpublicdefender123 said...

I'm guessing he's also one of those prosecutors who would maintain that no innocent people plead guilty. He seems to be saying that if you're facing a mandatory 25 years and the DA offers you probation, you should always take it, even if you are innocent. If you risk going to trial and get 25, then tough cookies, buddy. It's all your fault!

--KRIS said...

No prosecutor geniunely in search of justice would've pursued this case.

Windypundit said...

Maybe I'm just nuts, but is there anybody keeping track of these guys? I mean the cops and prosecutors. This sort of decision making should follow them throughout their career, kind of like a drug conviction follows the people they put away. Call it an enemies list if you want, but it would be nice if some day when the prosecutor is running for office someone asks him "Didn't you once spend taxpayer money on three separate trials to put a wheelchair-bound father of three in jail for 25 years because he forged a few prescriptions to releive his pain?"

Anonymous said...

Yeah Windy, people do keep track of that kind of thing. The prosecutor will probably cite it in his ads when he runs for Attorney General of Florida. I mean, people kept track of all of the falsely accused "child molesters" that Janet Reno put away using discredited recovered memory testimony and it didn't exactly keep her out of the Clinton administration. This sort of hypocrisy cuts both ways. The conservatives take it for granted and the dems love it because it makes them look tough on the DRUG MENACE in the sticks.

PD Dude said...

Anon, you are right about the Democratic and Republican anomilies regarding the war on drugs and crime in general, this is why I've stopped referring to the parties the people belong to, and instead refer to the political philosophy to which they subscribe. If they have the reflexively tough on crime attitude, thinking that the law should be applied harshly against all regardless of circumstances or morality, then I call them conservatives (generally, they would be Republican, but enough Democrats have adopted those attitudes to remain politically viable that it has begun to transcend both parties).

On the other hand, if one believes in actual justice, not just blindly applying rules regardless of their actual human effect, and don't favor making every possible crime punishable by life or huge prison sentences, don't favor making everything under the sun punishible by criminal law, believe that there is an inherent human liberty that trumps the government's right to regulate private behavior that harms no one else, then I would call you liberal.

I'm happy to be considered liberal in that respect. It doesn't mean giving things away, it doesn't mean a failure make judgments of bad behavior, or being overly permissive, but it means tempering this with justice.

OLS said...

Not sure if you have trackback, and I don't want to comment spam, but I've also ranted about this over at my blog after reading your post. There have been some interesting comments.


Michael said...

I guess I will throw in my contrarian opinion that this defendant was dumb as a stump. I will agree all day that the prosecutor was wrong, the law is wrong, etc., etc. But from the article (for whatever it is worth factually), the guy was not innocent and was doing something illegal. Any father of three who, faced with the prospect of no jail, chooses to go to trial on a charge that would get him a minimum 25 years is an idiot. Look, write a letter to the editor about the injustice of it all, but take the plea and stay home with your family.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that everyone either wants to put someone in jail or is getting put in jail themselves, kind of sad. Has however, instilled much motivation in my prusuit to graduate law school.

Another Point of View... said...

HOW GOOD WAS HIS LAWYER? If OJ and others can walk then what the heck was an educated almost lawyer with a Doctor wife doing for legal advice? Since when have trials and justice had a lot to do with each other? It appears that this poor guy got caught with his hand in the cookie jar and after three chances to walk he was slapped up the side of the head with a legal system two x four.
I am sort of sorry for him but you buy your ticket and you take your chances when you have a jury trial and the outcome should be no surprise. Of course the expense of the trials and the cost of his incarceration don't make the least bit of sense. So what, how many poor semi-educated slobs get this treatment every day? In this simplistic sound bite world it is neither a right or left wing thing, it is a current government and get the guys who run the system re-elected thing. Remember the difference between a staunch conservative and a strong criminal rights advocate is often times just an indictment.

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Anonymous said...

Just how wrong and stupid this is.

If i never set foot in america again I'll be happy.

Idiots. Stupid bloody beauraucratic moronic idiots.

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Ross said...

I will pray every night that Mr. Andringa becomes a chronic pain sufferer, very soon.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with the comment that says no prosecutor in search of justice would have pursued this case. However, no prosecutor in search of justice would have pursued the 25 year min man.