Dec 20, 2014 0
Conrad Black writes Eric Garner’s America in The National Review.
The Supreme Court has sat like a shelf of suet puddings while the criminal-justice system has become a conveyor belt to the country’s bloated and corrupt prison system, and lawyers have become an immense industry, hiding its avarice behind a fog of insipid pieties about the rule of law (which, as the phrase was meant by the authors of the Bill of Rights, can scarcely be said to exist in the U.S.). New York federal judge Jed S. Rakoff wrote in the New York Review of Books on November 20 that the traditional American notion of the day in court is “a mirage” because of the corruption of the plea-bargain system, in which inculpatory evidence is extorted from witnesses in exchange for immunity from prosecution, including for perjury. Every week there is some new exposé of horror stories of prosecutorial abuse, yet prosecutors enjoy an absolute immunity, even when it is revealed that they have committed crimes of obstruction of justice, as in the infamous Connick v. Thompson decision of 2011: An innocent man spent 14 years on death row because prosecutors willfully withheld DNA evidence they knew would, and ultimately did, acquit him; the U.S. Supreme Court narrowly overruled the damage award to the wrongfully convicted Mr. Thompson on a spurious technicality. Less exalted courts are not more condign. Richard Posner in the Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago and Leo Strine, now gamboling in his new office as chief justice of Delaware, are, to this writer’s perfect and indelible recollection, among the most famous (and publicity-seeking) judges who have little discernible interest at all in coming up with a correct verdict or even in developing a reasonable knowledge of the cases before them. They are the zeitgeist in robes, Nancy Grace with a gavel and a sex change, and they boisterously consider themselves inexhaustible reservoirs of raucously insightful witticisms and aperçus.
The greatest problem is not racist police; the police generally follow orders, especially under a distinguished commissioner such as New York’s WilliamBratton. It is complacent judicial and media tolerance of a morally bankrupt prosecutocracy. There are scores of millions of Americans of every ethnic, economic, sociological, and age group and every region who are victims of the system as it has mutated; and this is the time for all those shocked at the Garnerchokehold tragedy, and other recent police excesses, to link arms and seek comprehensive reform. The principally aggrieved individuals in the current controversies and their advisers should demand equal treatment for defense and prosecution at trial, independently funded and accountable public defenders, a restoration of judges’ discretion in sentencing instead of mandated draconiansentences, appropriate community service in place of severe custodial sentences for non-violent offenses, a requirement that most judges not be ex-prosecutors, the last word before the jury for the defense (as in every other civilized country), and an absolute end to the plea-bargain system as a form of irresistible extortion ofinculpatory perjury. They would have the support of much of the media and there would be peaceful demonstrations in every community in America that could probably snowball to involve 100 million people. No one except the bloodstained fraternity of the prosecutors and associations of loopy police chiefs support the status quo, and a demonstration of public righteousness would bring every member of Congress, including the most witless and stentorian parrots of the law-and-order mantra, to their knees, miraculously cured of their policy infirmities.