Friday, June 16, 2006

A Model for Prosecutors Everywhere

In what can only be described as a prosecutor's dream scenario, a Court in China conducted the trial of a New York Times reporter from there who accurately predicted the changes in leadership of China. The trial took one day. The defendant was not allowed to have anyone at the trial to view it ("state secrets"), and the defense was denied the right to call a witness on his behalf.

I have previously considered the manner in which prosecutor and police groups in this country want to "speed up" justice in this country, and take away more and more rights of defendants here (unless, of course, those defendants happen to be right wingers, in which case they truly are innocent, and shouldn't even be charged in the first place, but if a jury does something crazy like convict, you can always depend on trial judges or appeals court justices to reverse that - consider in general Stacy Koon & Larry Powell, the Rodney King beaters, or Admiral Poindexter and Ollie North, the Iran-Contra folk, or the Rampart Officers in Los Angeles). There have been proposals for stripping people of their rights to a jury trial in misdemeanors, to allow non-unanimous jury verdicts, to curtail the rights of defendants to call witnesses at preliminary hearngs, to eliminate the exclusionary rule for illegally seized evidence, to allow juvenile convictions to be used in adult court (this has happened, BTW, even though juvis have no right to a jury trial), to allow wholesale hearsay at trials against people, and plenty of other things of the like. Why not just do things like they do in China and make things so much easier?

Well, maybe it's not so far off these days. Consider all of the things that have happened in the last few years. Immigrants can be plucked off the street for terrorism investigations, even without the slightest suspicion, held in custody for months or years on minor technical visa violations ("your form wasn't dated on page 3"), and then deported without any charges ever being filed, all because you're the wrong minority. Or, you can be plucked off the street in Montenegro, flown to Afghanistan and tortured there for 5 months, and then dropped off in your home country of Germany because, ooops, we got the wrong person ("well, he was ARAB, so he's not totally innocent!"). When you sue in the US for your kidnapping and torture, your case is thrown out because the US Government asserts that these are "state secrets" (remember those, China???). Or, we now have 4 justices on the Supreme Court who want to get rid of the exclusionary rule altogether, so that there is no sanction against police officers who bust down your door and treat you like crap anymore.

So, as you can see, maybe we should just adopt the China system and make it a lot easier. There will be no more illusions, we can call a spade a spade, and we can finally start to win that war on crime that we've been pussyfooting around for all this time. Then again, isn't there the parable about boiling the frog slowly rather than just putting it into boiling water.....?

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

If you need an antidote for the deference right-wingers get in the courts, try simply mocking them, as at the National Lawyers Guild (Chicago) site: www.nlgchicago.org/insp-portal.shtml
with the "Libby Scooter".

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