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by Peter Moskos

June 30, 2010

A technicality?

It's not easy to separate emotion from constitutional issues. Ronell Wilson killed two NYPD detectives in 2003 and was found guilty and sentence to death by a federal jury. Good.

Now, in 2010, an appeals court struck down the sentence (but not the conviction... the bastard did it).

It's easy for cops and conservatives to bitch about "liberal" courts letting cop killers go on a "technicality." But the court is right.

According to the Times, the "technicality" is that the prosecutors told the jury to consider Wilson's demand for a trial and failure to plead guilty as evidence of lack of remorse. The prosecutors had "argued to the jury that his statement of remorse should be discredited because he failed to testify."

Like it or not (myself, I'm rather fond of the Bill of Rights), we all have the constitutional right to a jury trial--Amendment 6--and the right not to testify against ourselves--Amendment 5. Period.

[Mind you, demanding your right to a jury trial is often held against you. That's why 90-some percent of convictions come from plea bargains -- but that doesn't make it right and that's another story.]

What kind of rights would these be if exercising these rights were held against you? What could be worse than a prosecutor implying, "Yes, the defendant had a right not to testify, and because he exercised that right, he should be put to death."

Call it a "technicality" if you want. I'd call it a fundamental right put in doubt by a serious and stupid error from prosecutors.

7 comments:

Cleanville Tziabatz said...

Entrapment is always a bad idea.

PCM said...

(And yet another strange anti-cop non-sequitur from Monsieur Tziabatz.)

Cleanville Tziabatz said...

I am suggesting that the two undercover policemen were trying to entrap Ronell and that if they hadn't tried to do that then they would still be alive today, and that not trying to entrap Ronell would therefore have been a better option for them to have chosen in their professional judgement.

We can't bring them back, but we can learn from their mistakes by discussing them openly and honestly now that some of the raw pain has subsided a bit.

Not sure why this is considered a non sequitur.

PCM said...

Because entrapment (which this wasn't) had nothing to do with this case, the defense arguments, the appeal decision, or the topic of this post.

Cleanville Tziabatz said...

Why was it not entrapment? I mean, entrapment is not a defense to murder, but is there some reason that you believe that what the undercover officers were doing just b4 Ronell murdered them was not an entrapment?

winston smith said...

If it wern't for dirty liberals we wouldn't have any rights at all. A sad fact, but it's true. Most "small government" conservatives can't lick the state's boots fast enough if a cops foot is in them. The only exception are libretarians, but there aren't very many of those.

PCM said...

Winston,

I've never understood that contradiction either.

You might be for big government or against it, but cops seems to be working for big government while at the same time preaching against it.

So many cops pretend to think the Constitution is the problem while at the same time preaching against big government.

The point of the Bill of Rights it to limit the government. After the first eight, The Ninth Amendment makes that pretty clear.

I wish police would take that more to heart. How do police not understand that in disliking the Bill of Rights they support Big Government?

Despite not being one, I have nothing against "small-government" conservatives. I've just never really met any. All the "small-government conservatives" I know turn out to be big-government conservatives. That bothers me.

But I'm not a libertarian either. In fact, I'm kind of the opposite. And yet time and time again I find myself agreeing with libertarians. I guess I'm a small-government liberal. Now if only I could figure out what that means.