Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Liberties Under Assault

. . . by prosecutors. Once we Americans had rights that were considered "inaleinable." However, it seems clear that the moral distinctions that were once so clear have disappeared in the context of regulatory laws - murder is bad; it is not ok to take property belonging to another, etc.

Now, however, we have reached a point where matters that were once covered under the purview of civil litigation have now been criminalized. What's worse is that a person's intent, or even knowledge of the often vaguely worded statutes that forbid certain actions, no longer really matters. Even more frightening is that state and federal prosecutors are making end runs around the constitution (and your liberties) , and judges are complicit in these actions. In his wonderful book Go Directly to Jail: The Criminalization of Almost Everything, Gene Healy has put together a fabulous set of articles that explains how prosecutors make an end run around our concepts of justice, often for their own career advancement.

Healy, demonstrates how the complexity of our ever changing laws makes it difficult for any person to be confident that he or she is "law abiding." Additionally, he lays out the frightening powers that prosecutors have to dictate, essentially, that defendants (again often without demonstrating any intent to commit a crime, and who also make good-faith efforts to comply with the law) must admit their "guilt" and negotiate a plea agreement or face sanctions that can often amount to life in prison.

This excellent book came out just before the recent Supreme Court decision overturning mandatory sentencing guidelines, but it is nonetheless a must read for anyone who cares about freedom in America.

See, I have this movie idea where a physician is federally prosecuted for some vague, arbitrary heretofore unenforced provision of HIPAA. Rather than copping a plea and satisfying a young federal prosecutors passion for personal advancement, the doctor makes a principled stand and fights to prove he is innocent. Unfortunately, because his intent or knowledge of the law does not matter and neither do his good faith efforts to comply with the provisions by calling a federal HIPAA hotline (It doesn't matter if they gave you bad information), he is sentenced to jail for 20 years in federal prison.

However, it turns out that this doctor has also discovered the genetic key to prevent and reverse cancers. In an even more amazing Hollywood twist, the young federal prosecutor's lovely young wife is discovered to cancer in the late stages (she waited too long). The prosecutor, aware of the Doctor's findings, tries to compel him to cure his wife's cancer, and later tries to negotiate with the doctor - anything to save his wife. However, the doctor in an impassioned speech about how his sense of compassion was stolen by the prosecutor, refuses to help the prosecutor and the young lovely wife dies. Granted it is a selfish act by the doctor, but it is sometimes sooooooooooo satisfying to see people held personally accountable for their actions. - Note: it would probably be better if the prosecutor himself developed cancer, but let's face it, lovely young wives are so very Hollywood.

Perhaps I'm being too hard on prosecutors since ultimately it's the legislators who are at fault for this horrible legislation (and us for continuing to elect them), but shouldn't they at least be a filter for this kind of crappy legislation. Good grief - if a person had no intent to harm anything, why make him or her face jail time. It makes me want to slap them all.

Kid Handsome


Post a Comment

<< Home