Several versions of the story of college students arrested buying water circulated through Facebook and the internet this week. Something about this story troubled me. Several things actually.
The primary issue stewing in the back of mind: what if they had been black men who were high school dropouts? Would they still be sitting in jail? Would the public defender have been able to obtain such a positive outcome? Would the prosecutor believe the account of seemingly innocent men purchasing water, approached by plainclothes officers in an illegal detention?
My cynical lawyer mind answers no.
The initial internal review by Virginia ABC indicates their officers did nothing wrong. Really, then why were they trying to detain citizens who purchased water? What “intelligence” or “information” led them suspect such illicit and criminal behavior? Are these officers too ignorant to know that the purchase made included water? Six officers, guns drawn for a suspected underage alcohol purchase?
In our society, we are taught to respect the police. Sometimes, their zeal to arrest even for the most minor, and arguably stupid laws, creates danger for themselves and for the public. This reliance of law enforcement creates a false sense of confidence in the word of law enforcement. In many instances this reliance is well founded.
Some officers, however, rely on this credibility to cut corners, abuse rights because “you might beat the charge, but you can’t beat the ride.” This attitude creates criminals and criminal histories for people who behaved in a lawful manner but somehow became caught up in the net of an investigation or maybe offended law enforcement.
Should we be skeptical in the Virginia case? Clearly the prosecutor was skeptical. We should however listen carefully to everyone not just those people who look innocent from the outside. Every person is innocent until proven guilty. Not just the ones who have spotless records.
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Just read an article on 19 year old Justin Carter. Carter is being held on a half million dollar bond for essentially making a terroristic threat over the internet. The threat, not one to be taken lightly, was purportedly made following the end of an aggressive video game playing session. This young man has been held in jail since February, 2013. He’s been the subject of beatings and abuse by other inmates.
Here’s my question: In the face of research that indicates the human brain isn’t fully formed until the age of 25 or 26, couldn’t we find some other way to deal with Mr. Carter pretrial? Perhaps some psychological evaluations and treatment. Perhaps looking at whether he fits the psychological profile of someone who would shoot up a school. Determine whether he’s a hot-headed kid who needs treatment to manage his anger or impulse control.
Could the justice system find a way to sort through the threats to society rather than locking up everyone for indeterminate periods of time?
Wouldn’t it be cheaper in the long run to help the folks who can be helped instead of paying to house them and provide medical treatment for them? The current system perpetuates a cycle for those who could be helped but cannot access treatment from incarceration.
Will a jury even find him guilty?
The system needs to change.
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Interesting stories from around…
Worth reading today. All Americans should read this document at least once a year. The Declaration of Independence marked the beginning of the our experimental government. Our Great Republic has seen good days and bad days but the thoughts and sentiments in the Declaration have endured. Take a few minutes to read this.
Exploring the Founding Fathers. This op-ed explores the opinions of our Founding Fathers.
Truth of Ellis Island. On this Independence Day, a story of the truth Ellis Island, not the white-washed flag waving story. I find more comfort in the truth.
Choosing to Serve. A look at who chooses to serve our county and protect the Government the Founders fought so hard to obtain.
Our experiment at Work, or not. Minnesota government shutdown on Friday, July 1. Instead of battles over control, we have civil governments and protests are peaceful. Shouldn’t we be thankful for this?
Independence in Jail? We want porn! Convicted armed robber wants porn in jail. Claims a constitutional right. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the beauty of this great country. The Court will determine this case. What do you think?
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The State of New Hampshire has chosen to suspend jury trials for the month of January 2009 in order to save money. Consider however, that some of the initial immigrants to the New World sought refuge from politically influenced and controlled courts. The founders of this country who understood that history will repeat itself supplemented the U.S. Constitution with Amendments. Amendment number six: the right to a speedy and public trial before a jury of peers. This Amendment is not a suggestion or a frivolity to be discarded.
No, the right to a jury trial must be preserved. The Founding Fathers understood this necessity. In a New York Times story dated December 8, 2009, New Hampshire’s chief justice said “suspending trials was essential to avoid layoffs in the judicial system, which has already cut $2.7 million from its budget.”
Why would the state ask to cut the budget of the courts? All government departments and divisions are not created equally. The US Constitution does not mandate the existence of many to superfluous government entities. But the Courts, the Courts are different. If the State of New Hampshire wants to cut budgets and money, they should fire non-essential employees in other divisions: does a governor need more than a secretary to keep up with a schedule? Do the other departments need middle management?
The right to a jury trial is sacrosanct. If State governments with their attendant politicians are placing priority on maintaining employees rather than the mandates of the Constitution, the priorities of this country are sadly misplaced. The U.S. Constitution created more than 200 years ago transcends individual politicians, agendas, and economic times. Thankfully the Courts combatted modifications proposed by many presidents, including massive changes proposed by FDR. The Courts ushered in significant changes in civil rights and individual rights.
When we as Americans permit politicians to ignore the imperatives of the U.S. Constitution, we participate in the erosion of our inherent rights. Law abiding citizens may live under the false assumption that criminals should not have these rights. This belief is flawed. Individuals charged with crimes remain innocent and innocent people are charged with crimes routinely. The mandate of the Constitution applies all people not just those we find palatable or would invite home for dinner. The rights being eroded belong to all of us equally. The jobs being preserved are temporary. The rights being eroded are inherent. We as a country need to consider our priorities!
John McCain’s proposal of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin raised questions in my circle. Most particularly, what qualifications must one have to BE President of the United States and Vice President.
The U.S. Constitution requires that the individual be a “natural born Citizen” and shall have reached the age of 35 years. Article 2, Section 5 of the United States Constitution. The 22nd Amendment precludes one who has served two previous terms as President of the United States. That’s it.
Governor Palin meets those qualifications, as does Senator Obama. What other qualifications should there be? Good sense? Innate ability to speak and communicate with others, not just talk? What criteria should we impose? Or should we take the basic qualifications given us by the Founders and see what we want?