Thursday, July 14, 2011

Did I mention that I'm right?

Piling on more "I told you", I cite another source certain that creating law under the influence of emotion is a bad, bad idea.
Within minutes of the Casey Anthony verdict, much of America devolved into the mass media equivalent of a mob bearing torches and pitchforks. Twitter lit up with calls for vigilante justice, and proposals that we revoke the Fifth Amendment's protection against double jeopardy (or at least that we revoke it for Casey Anthony). Nancy Grace nearly spit fire, proclaiming, "The devil is dancing tonight." Conservative syndicated columnist Ben Shapiro wants to change the jury system entirely.

Even as DNA testing continues to exonerate wrongly convicted people, including people who were nearly executed, it's this rare case -- in which a jury recognized that there was no physical evidence linking Anthony to her daughter's murder -- that has America questioning its justice system.
Laws named after crime victims and dead people are usually a bad idea. They play more to emotion than reason. But they're disturbingly predictable, especially when they come after the death of a child. So it's really no surprise that activist Michelle Crowder is now pushing "Caylee's Law," a proposed federal bill that would charge parents with a felony if they fail to report a missing child within 24 hours, or if they fail to report the death of a child within an hour. What's surprising is just how quickly the petition for Caylee's Law has gone viral. As of this writing it has more than 700,000 signatures, and is now the most successful campaign in the site's history. For reasons of constitutionality and practicality, it seems unlikely that Caylee's Law will ever be realized at the federal level. But according to the AP, at least sixteen state legislatures are now considering some version of the law. That's troubling.

This is a bad way to make public policy. In an interview with CNN, Crowder concedes that she didn't consult with a single law enforcement official before coming up with her 24-hour and 1-hour limits. This raises some questions. How did she come up with those cutoffs? Did she consult with any grief counselors to see if there may be innocuous reasons why an innocent person who just witnessed a child's death might not immediately report it, such as shock, passing out, or some other sort of mental breakdown? Did she consult with a forensic pathologist to see if it's even possible to pin down the time of death with the sort of precision you'd need to make Caylee's Law enforceable? Have any of the lawmakers who have proposed or are planning to propose this law actually consulted with anyone with some knowledge of these issues?
These excerpts just scratch the surface of Mr. Balko's arguments. Please read the entire article. He makes the best case imaginable to avoid making Caylee's Law a reality.


Friday, July 8, 2011

I hate being right

In my last post, I wrote about my dread about bad law resulting from a knee-jerk reaction to the Casey Anthony verdict. I hate being right.
Michelle Crowder of Durant, Oklahoma is calling for Caylee's Law, a piece of legislation that would make it a felony for a parent to fail to report a missing child to law enforcement. And people are listening. Important people.
This won't help Caylee directly. But it will help America's kids.

It will help the quarter of gay teens who are kicked out of their homes by their parents simply for admitting they love someone of the same gender, kids whose parents leave them to rot on the sidewalks. As it stands, parents CAN kick their kids out, and with rules that don't require they report them missing, abdicating their duties to love and protect their children isn't a felony.
Caylee's Law, or whatever you call it, would help us make sense of how a system will punish a parent with child abuse charges for leaving children unattended for a long period of time (and rightly so!) but let a parent skate for not reporting a child missing. It can't be one but not the other, America. That's why we need a law.
Did I not tell you? Yet another law "for the children". Ye gods!

But the law of unintended consequences always rides shotgun with these kind of emotion-laded knee-jerk laws. Exhibit A: your 16-year-old daughter runs away with a musician after trying to poison you for the insurance money. You want this back in your life? You figure, "Eh, goodbye and good riddance." But if you don't report your daughter missing and take her back with open arms when she is returned by the cops, you're guilty of child abuse. Of course, if you do take her back, you'd better sleep with one eye open.....but I digress.

And where did this statistic about one quarter of gay teens being kicked out of their homes come from? Sounds fishy to me. I'd wager they're including "boy toys" who ran off with an older man who promised them goodies in exchange for butt sex in that obviously embellished tally. But that "leaving them to rot on the sidewalks" line? Priceless.

Emotions and law make bad bedfellows. But politicians pandering for your vote don't care. They'll pass whatever ridiculous law you tell them you want.

And you wonder why you are less free every day.....


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Trial by Media

Deadeye watched the Casey Anthony trial with rapt fascination over the past six weeks. I would venture that there is no one out there as knowledgeable about that case (outside of the attorneys, that is) than Deadeye. When Casey Anthony was found not guilty on all charges except lying to police yesterday, Deadeye was dumbfounded. She has officially lost all confidence in the jury system.

While I would tend to agree with her the the cumulative evidence should have led to a verdict of guilty, I'm less concerned with the verdict and more concerned about a growing trend that became apparent during this trial. Call it what you will, it boils down to trail by media.

The worst offender was Nancy Grace, of course. Were it up to Ms. Grace, Casey Anthony would be dead already. Nancy Grace has spent the past three years proclaiming the guilt of "tot mom". I thought that the "not guilty" verdict might elicit some sort of contemplative pause from her. As if! She said in response to the verdict that "the devil is dancing tonight". On her show last night, she spent an entire segment excoriating the defense team for having the audacity to celebrate their victory. Claiming "I never did that as a prosecutor", she heaped derision on Casey's attorneys. Being ever cynical...and knowing Nancy's predilection for playing fast and loose with the law during her career as a prosecutor...I would guess that the reason she never celebrated was because she didn't want to draw too much attention to her tactics.

If it were just Nancy Grace acting this way on the airways, you could dismiss this is as one bitter crank amid a sea of babble. But it's not just Ms. Grace. It's Jane VOLUME-Mitchell. It's Vinnie Politan. It's the hosts of In Session on Tru TV. The babble from this Tower of Babel is not just harmless words. If you listen to the comments of people around the country, they are convinced that the jury flat out blew the case. They're convinced that Casey Anthony is GUILTY, GUILTY, GUILTY. And the reason they're so convinced is because they've been harangued for three solid years by people selling sensationalism for ratings.

Still not convinced it's all that dangerous, Vulture. Okay, indulge me for a second. What happens when a sizable segment of the populace is worked up into a frenzy about something or other? Answer: laws get passed. Bad laws. Laws that make us less free and more susceptible to unwarranted incarceration. THIS is what concerns me. THIS is what I see as the danger.

Here's hoping that the Casey Anthony verdict does NOT have the effect of giving politicians a premise for abolishing or negating trial by jury.