We are beginning to see significant concern expressed in the non-MSM concerning the legal aspects of police behavior when alleged criminals are apprehended. While the events in Boston are the latest trigger, the concern applies to all law enforcement activity, at both federal and local levels and dating much further back and to the entire War On Terror’ fiasco.
The first concern applies to how law enforcement behaves regarding the alleged criminals or terrorists.
On the one hand, the legal rights of the defendant(s) should be protected as a matter of simple justice. On the other hand, the needs of society must a also be considered. One of the primary roles of the judicial system is to balance these rights when they come into conflict.
As it now stands, law enforcement can arbitrarily proclaim a pressing need based on public safety concerns, to ignore the rights of the arrested, not read them their ‘Miranda rights’, provide access to legal counsel or even put them before a judge.
When illegally-obtained evidence is presented in court, it is thrown out. That does not necessarily mean the defendant is acquitted, just that a conviction must be arrived at via other, legally-obtained evidence.
If the authorities see fit to place the needs of their investigation above the rights of the defendant(s), any evidence acquired prior to the defendant(s) being Mirandized, brought before a judge and provided counsel should be inadmissible in court. I would add that even any evidence acquired later should be inadmissible if it is based on or acquired from the tainted information.
This has always been standard procedure at least in theory, but now we are beginning to see prosecutors argue that the tainted evidence should be admissible on the grounds that obtaining it was necessary for public safety. The tainted evidence may well have served to protect the public (for example: locating unexploded bombs), but that does not the mean the evidence is not ‘legally tainted’ and thus inadmissible in court.
In our adversarial justice system, we expect the prosecutor to push for conviction just as we expect defense counsel to push for acquittal, but making tainted evidence admissible would put the judges on the side of conviction rather than on the side of justice.
If law enforcement knew that their processes might lead to evidence being rejected in court, they might be more careful about over-riding legal rights on the basis of public safety concerns, but this could only happen if the courts make it clear they are operating in the interests of justice rather than just as an adjunct to police, FBI, DHS and/or the prosecutor’s office.
The second concern I have seen raised is the the propriety of law enforcement to effectively (and on questionable authority) establish martial law, to lock down a neighborood or an entire city or metorpolitan area, as happened in Boston. The resulting door-to-door searches without even the legal cover of a warrant is also questionable. Granted, a warrant is not needed if police are in ‘hot pursuit’, as would be the case if they chased a suspect into a buildiing, for example. Beyond that, a warrant is specific to the both the information beihg sought (in this case the suspect) and to the location. I don’t know if ‘Boston’ or ‘Watertown’ would be specific enough for legal purposes, but it seems questionable.
In this regard, one wonders what would have happened if the events had transpired in a town full of NRA-besotted,, over-armed, anti-government, paranoid Teabaggers. Jackbooted thugs invading our homes! Obama probably sent them to take our guns!
Of course, if such a town were not locked down, we’d probably have an unregulated militia roaming the street, ‘helping the police’ and shooting each other.
Guess every cloud has a silver lining. 🙂
The so-called Progressive media, mostly bloggers, along with the relevant UN agencies and the ACLU have long been protesting the practices of our War On Terror and it’s violation of the US Constitution, the UN charter and resolutions, the Geneva Conventions, basic human rights and common decency. Both houses of Congress, past and current Administrations and governmental agencies from NSA, CIA, FBI, DHS and the US Army, right down to your local police department and everyone in between have explicitly or tacitly adopted ‘kill them all and let God sort them out‘ mentality. The Powers-That-Be are now unofficially and sometimes officially (and often violently) suppressing any dissent. Since the US is (at least for the foreseeable future) the paramount military/police power in the world and given the technology and firepower available to the government, the future of justice and civil rights/liberties seems bleak.
I wish I felt this way simply because tomorrow is Monday, but I’m afraid that’s not the reason.