Saturday, February 16, 2013

Consequences are a good thing

I may have German ancestors, but I don't think I inherited a tendency toward Schadenfreude. Well, not much of one, anyway. I don't take delight in the misery of others. Well, not much, anyway.

But I am a fan of accountability. It's frustrating to all of us in the defense bar to see the police who intentionally lie on the stand, who violate the 4th and 5th Amendments, and who are caught doing these things keep their jobs. Too often, they don't seem to face any consequences. Same with prosecutors who withhold exculpatory information, a clear violation of long-standing US Supreme Court directives (based in constitutional principles), or who violate a defendant's right against self-incrimination or right to the assistance of counsel, or who commit misconduct in their questioning of witnesses and arguments to the jury but keep trying cases and keep skirting the rules.

As I said when that Texas state trooper was dismissed in January after committing one of the most invasive 4th Amendment violations I've ever heard of, I do not delight in the idea of anyone losing his or her livelihood, suffering the financial devastation of job loss. But the integrity of the criminal justice system demands that the police and prosecutors who abuse the system suffer consequences. We can't allow the chronic violators to remain a part of the system. So, no, I don't delight in the misfortunes of the individuals who lose their jobs or suffer demotions. But I do appreciate it when state agencies take their constitutional obligations seriously by holding those individuals who flout those obligations accountable.

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