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January 20, 2011

Notable defense of parole focused on prosecutorial discretion

Writing in The Atlantic, Wendy Kaminar has this interesting new commentary, headlined "Why Granting Parole Helps Us Stay Tough on Crime," which stresses the too-often ignored issue of prosecutorial discretion.  Here are excerpts:

Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick recently secured the resignation of the executive director and five members of the seven member Massachusetts parole board, including its chair, after paroled career criminal Domenic Cinelli killed veteran police officer Jack Maguire during a botched robbery attempt in late December 2010.  Not surprisingly the murder of a police officer by a parolee sparked widespread outrage and demands for drastic parole reforms, including an immediate suspension of parole hearings. After a subsequent inquiry found serious mistakes in the conduct of Cinelli's hearing and a serious failure of supervision when he was released, Patrick's shake-up of the agency, which was met with the surprised approval of his conservative critics and the dismay of liberal criminal justice advocates, seemed inevitable. When you hold a high-stakes, high-profile job, you should probably not expect political forgiveness for a series of fatal or near fatal mistakes -- unless you're a prosecutor.

Prosecutorial misconduct is a familiar if not common occurrence that results in the imprisonment of innocent people, the failure even to arrest the guilty, or lenient sentences for offenders when prosecutors are caught engaging in misconduct and enter into plea bargains to avoid exposure....  [In too many] cases, including those involving lengthy, wrongful imprisonments, prosecutorial misconduct is often tolerated, if not trivialized, as its persistence shows. The wrongful imprisonment of innocent people and ruination of innocent lives resulting from intentional government misconduct simply does not arouse the outrage and demands for reform that follow a fateful parole decision, resulting from unintentional mistakes.

In fact, the call for harsher penal laws sparked by a mistaken grant of parole can exacerbate the problem of misconduct by increasing the generally unaccountable, discretionary power of prosecutors through mandatory sentencing schemes, which (as I've noted here) effectively consolidate charging and sentencing authority in the prosecutor's office. In Massachusetts, police and some legislators are pressing for passage of an emotionally charged law (named for murder victim, Melissa Gosule) that would impose mandatory maximum penalties on many third time felony offenders, eliminating opportunities for parole....

If only people were consistent in their mistrust of government: Parole board members are not to be trusted with discretion in granting parole, and judges are not to be trusted with discretion in sentencing convicted defendants; but prosecutors are invariably trusted with significantly increased discretion, despite their track records of abusing it. The illogic of popular, putatively tough anti-crime strategies has long frustrated death penalty opponents and other criminal justice reformers: People who tend not to trust the government with its civil, regulatory power, notably over business or health care, will trust it enthusiastically with awesome, inadequately checked prosecutorial power. They trust that it will prosecute and occasionally execute other people, (only very bad and guilty people) with consistent accuracy and fairness, despite all evidence to the contrary.

January 20, 2011 at 03:30 PM | Permalink

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Comments

The Supreme Court has granted prosecutors absolute immunity from tort liability. All immunities must end. Immunity has no justification which is sane, rational, or lawful in a secular nation ("The Sovereign speaks with the voice of God." Nuts, and unlawful.) Torts can improve the product of the lawyer. Also, if torts are a substitute for violence, then immunity fully justifies violent self help. The families of murder victims have full moral, intellectual, and policy justification to beat the ass of these lawyers, the prosecutors, the awful judges, and the parole boards. All owe their jobs to criminals, and nothing to victims. So they are totally biased, and a threat to the public safety. Even if a lawsuit fails, the government, lazy, do nothing lawyers will lose their job after a face saving interval.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 20, 2011 10:43:11 PM

We have 20 million major crimes under the crime management of the lawyer. These are FBI Index felonies, which are traditional crimes, and none is any regulatory or bogus lawyer gotcha.

We get 2 million prosecutions. 90% of major crimes go unanswered by this incompetent. Over 90% of the prosecutions result in a plea to a fictitious crime, often non-violent, whereas the original charge is for violent crime. This system is costing us a $trillion a year. If you count the damage to the economy by major crime, the real cost is more like $10 trillion in lost productivity, poor, insecure education, and degradation of property values.

The output of the lawyer meets the definition of a product. What should the liability for a product that is so defective and dangerous in ordinary use? If a product caused that much destruction, the authorities would seize it, arrest its makers, and assess heavy penalties. The lawyer runs this horror show, and has taken total immunity for its incompetence. Thank the Supreme Court. If an employee is that bad, isn't it the decent thing to resign? The Supreme Court needs to resign, and no replacement should be a lawyer.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 21, 2011 10:52:54 AM

Thank you very much for keeping me up to date.

Posted by: Health Blog | Jan 26, 2011 7:17:57 AM

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