Perhaps when Ralph Waldo Emerson said “You cannot do wrong without suffering wrong,” he was being a trifle optimistic. Consider this, for instance:
[G]iven that prosecutors often face no consequences for misconduct, it's not surprising that some are willing to lie about it.
That's what happened in the California case of The People v. Efrain Velasco-Palacios. In the course of negotiating a plea bargain with the defendant, a Kern County prosecutor committed what the California appeals court called "outrageous government misconduct."
What prosecuting attorney Robert Murray did was produce a translated transcript of the defendant's interrogation to which he had added a fraudulent confession. The defense attorney got a copy of the audio tape of the interrogation, but it "ended abruptly." Eventually, Murray admitted to falsifying the transcript, presumably in the hopes of either coercing a plea deal, or ensuring a victory at trial.
When the trial judge found out, charges against the defendant were dismissed. Incredibly, the State of California, via Attorney General Kamala Harris, decided to appeal the case. The state's key argument: That putting a fake confession in the transcript wasn't "outrageous" because it didn't involve physical brutality, like chaining someone to a radiator and beating him with a hose.
Did you know that the California Democrat Party – apparently with the blessing of the National Democrat Party – has “canonized” Kamala Harris as the Golden State’s next United States Senator? Would you say California voters might want to know about the above events before they reach for the levers? I certainly would.
But that’s not the end of this tawdry tale:
Murray suffered no actual punishment for his wrongdoing. As a report in the New York Observer notes: "For reasons beyond comprehension, he still works for the District Attorney Lisa Green in Kern County, Calif." Murray does face the possibility of discipline from the California bar, but even disbarment would be a light punishment for knowingly producing a false document in a criminal proceeding.
Why hasn’t the man been tarred, feathered, and run out of California on a rail? Because no other state would have him?
Can you hear Juvenal whispering Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? I can.
Meanwhile, we have this frightening article from the Rutherford Institute’s John Whitehead:
Consider what happened to Nicole Gainey, the Florida mom who was arrested and charged with child neglect for allowing her 7-year-old son to visit a neighborhood playground located a half mile from their house.
For the so-called “crime” of allowing her son to play at the park unsupervised, Gainey was interrogated, arrested and handcuffed in front of her son, and transported to the local jail where she was physically searched, fingerprinted, photographed and held for seven hours and then forced to pay almost $4000 in bond in order to return to her family. Gainey’s family and friends were subsequently questioned by the Dept. of Child Services. Gainey now faces a third-degree criminal felony charge that carries with it a fine of up to $5,000 and 5 years in jail.
For Denise Stewart, just being in the wrong place at the wrong time, whether or not she had done anything wrong, was sufficient to get her arrested.
The 48-year-old New York grandmother was dragged half-naked out of her apartment and handcuffed after police mistakenly raided her home when responding to a domestic disturbance call. Although it turns out the 911 call came from a different apartment on a different floor, Stewart is still facing charges of assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest.
And then there are those equally unfortunate individuals who unknowingly break laws they never even knew existed. John Yates is such a person. A commercial fisherman, Yates was sentenced to 30 days in prison and three years of supervised release for throwing back into the water some small fish which did not meet the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s size restrictions. Incredibly, Yates was charged with violating a document shredding provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which was intended to prevent another Enron scandal.
I’ve been advised to avoid articles such as that, for the sake of my blood pressure.
Whitehead makes some telling points about the “policing for profit” phenomenon that’s been observed in several locales. He has a valid point about the perniciousness of the incentives, but I hasten to add this: As we’re talking about persons in government jobs – police, prosecutors, judges, and bureaucrats – no financial incentive is required to evoke this kind of behavior. They’re in those positions because they worship power over others above all other things. They like nothing better than to exercise such power. The rightness or wrongness of the occasion might never even reach their conscious minds.
Given that they’re protected from retribution for their misdeeds, in some cases by “sovereign immunity” and in others by chummy relationships with those who have the power to hold them to account, how could we reasonably expect them to resist the temptations they face?
Perhaps when Emerson wrote that “You cannot do wrong without suffering wrong,” he implicitly assumed that the guardians of the law could be trusted with their powers and responsibilities. I can’t comment on that. However, I know of someone who can:
"Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?" said Dr. Ferris. "We want them broken. You'd better get it straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against -- then you'll know that this is not the age for beautiful gestures. We're after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you'd better get wise to it. There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can be neither observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted -- and you create a nation of law-breakers -- and then you cash in on guilt. Now that's the system, Mr. Rearden, that's the game, and once you understand it, you'll be much easier to deal with." [Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged]
Lord Acton had it right. Indeed, he might have understated the problem. Now if you’ll kindly excuse me, I think I should lie down for a bit. Have a nice day.