Saturday, July 30, 2016

If the Laws Need to be More Specific, They Should be

   I look at the Mark Shurtleff case, and at the Freddie Gray case, and wonder if there is not sometimes too much leeway in whether a case is prosecuted. Do we need more clearly defined laws?
   If what Shurtleff did was wrong, perhaps the law needs rewritten to spell it out. If it is wrong to accept a gift from someone you are prosecuting, do we have a law that says specifically that?
   If it is dangerous and wrong for a person while in shackles to be left to roll around the floor of a van while being transported to a police station, perhaps we need a law saying exactly that. If "rough rides" should be illegal, perhaps we need a law that specifically spells it out: "No person shall be subjected to a 'rough ride,' in which that person is not secured for his or her safety, or is left to be tossed when the vehicle either turns or changes acceleration. Nor shall any detainee shall be placed in travel conditions unsafer for him or her than for the officers providing the transport."
   Officer William Porter successfully argued in court that he had no reason to believe Freddie Gray was injured until they reached the police station. It shouldn't have come to that. Porter should not be expected to lift a hand of help only when the injury has already occurred and been observed. He should be responsible for not putting Gray in the situation that led to the injury and death in the first place.
   There is elbow room for officials to exercise their own will in our justice system, as to whether they press charges. The law should be spelled out, and as specific as necessary, even if you have to be so specific as to say prosecutors shall not accept boat trips from those they are prosecuting, nor stays in resort homes owned by those they are prosecuting. If the law needs to say no political donation shall be given to one person to give to another (laundered) if coming from a person in a criminal case influenced by the person receiving the gift, so be it. Say it.
   Baltimore and Maryland in the Freddie Gray case, and Utah in the Mark Shurtleff case, should not be sitting back and saying, "Justice has spoken." They should be considering whether justice went unserved due to insufficient laws.

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