Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Fire-breathing bartenders arrested, face 45 years

Perform a bar trick for the amusement of your customers, go to jail for half a century

I used to live down the street from this place, which was called Foot Anakin's back in the 80's when I was there.

I think this case is a good example of how our criminal justice system has gone off the rails. Nowadays just about anything you do can be construed as a felony, and prosecutors are quick to charge people with anything they can think of in relation to an incident. Multiple gratuitous charges stemming from a single event are a violation of double jeopardy in my opinion. Combine this with mandatory minimum sentencing rules and you wind up with a system that is a much greater threat to society than the REAL criminals it is nominally supposed to be protecting us from. A burglar will steal your TV or maybe your car, the criminal justice system will steal your life.

But there is a way out for these guys, and that is the most pernicious part of this whole mess. If they plead out to a lesser charge, the prosecutors get to claim a win, and they get a slap on the wrist. Why is this a problem? Because it destroys the principles of due process and trial by jury. Once upon a time when a person was charged with a crime, the prosecution had to prove their case in court before a jury of that person's peers. Not anymore. Today most people are so terrified of spending the rest of their lives in prison something that should rightly be called a misdemeanor that they simply plead guilty to anything the prosecution offers that will save them from that terrible fate. The prosecutors get to claim a "win," that they are "tough on crime," and their conviction stats are improved. Citizens who do not cave, and who do demand their day in court, are punished for it if they lose. If these guys actually fight these bogus charges, you can rest assured that the prosecutors will press to make these charges stick, and the sentences that will imposed really will be 45 years in prison (or worse) if these guys lose.

This is not justice, this is tyranny.

A free society is not one in which prosecutors deprive the judge and jury of their rightful place under due process. When prosecutors abuse their position to declare someone convicted of a crime by fiat, they are no longer public servants but criminals themselves.

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