Thursday, August 12, 2010

Crime In Punishment

I need someone knowledgeable in both the law and in the field of common sense to help me with something here.  

Why do we allow technicalities to get in the way of crime and punishment?

And no, I'm not talking about going back to the days when cops could kick down the door and make bogus arrests based on trumped-up charges.  The Bill of Rights is quite clear on all that.

I'm talking about a case in which the arrest is fair and equitable and the case against the accused proceeds through the courts without a huge problem, only to be overturned later because no one told the defense attorney that there was coffee and bagels in the judge's chambers.  

OK. Facetious.  Coffee and danish.

In the home version of this scenario, Mom catches Junior cutting school, hanging around the go-kart track with that O'Hoolahan boy from around the corner that Mom kept saying was nothing but trouble, just look at his parents, the cheap dyed hair, too much cologne, skimpy clothing, loitering in barrooms  like I don't know what, and the mother's just as bad.  

Mom calls Dad at work, and she's really steamed about the way the receptionist put her on hold. She blows her top about everything, and by the time Dad gets home, the house is rockin' with domestic problems, as Cheap Trick would say. Dad says this truancy had just naturally got to stop, and he sentences Junior to a week of grounding, and also makes him listen to NPR.  

Junior points out that Mom is not supposed to be calling Dad at work, and therefore, the call reporting his misbehavior should not have taken place, and therefore, the punishment cannot be levied.  Mom points out that she can do as she pleases.  Dad points out that Mom is just like her own mother, and lists several colorful examples, and suddenly go-kart tracks and snippy receptionists hardly seem to matter anymore.

OK.  That's a joke. But this is damned serious. How does it come that people who have been arrested, tried and found guilty, and then sentenced to long sentences, can get out on technicalities - mistakes made by others.  So your attorney didn't tell you about something?  Well, too bad, Junior!  Next time, pick a better attorney!  It seems to make the rest of us in society the ones who have to pay.

Imagine being the victim of some hellish crime, and many years later, you find the courage somewhere to come forward and tell the law about it.  They round up the guy who did it and toss him in the Ironbar Hilton for a long time - life in prison, sometimes with no chance of parole.  

And you, the victim, can go on with your life, taking the kids to soccer, going to the mall, stopping off at the Pump 'N' Go to fill up with hi-test, and working, knowing that you did your part for law and order.

Until the Saturday when you pick up your newspaper and find out that somewhere along the line, the guy you helped put away had hired an incompetent lawyer, and so some judge wants to let the guy out because, I mean, after all.  

He is still guilty. Doesn't matter that the attorney was a big-talkin' showboat who wanted to drag out the trial on the teeny chance that some jury felt like letting him out, just to be a little more famous of a lawyer.  Guilty is guilty, and nothing changes that.  Nothing changes the agony of the victims who have to relive that horror every time they close their eyes, and who now get to worry that the criminal will again walk among us.

And so I need someone versed in the law to tell me why a mistake made by some attorney should mean that he might be released, when we were told that couldn't happen.

Try explaining this to me.  Go ahead; take forever if you need to.

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