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Tag: law enforcement

The Fifth Amendment Protects the Innocent

People are having too much fun mocking former President Donald Trump for utilizing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Worse, some lawyers claim that no innocent person would ever take the Fifth.

I know from experience just how awful this legal advice is. The Fifth Amendment protects the innocent, as the many exonerees who were wrongfully convicted because of police misconduct during interogations can attest.

While I subscribe to Craig Calcaterra’s Cup of Coffee Substack mostly for baseball analysis, he’s also quite smart about politics and things in our culture. His response about the Fifth Amendment was spot-on:

But it’s still a profoundly wrong, profoundly stupid, and profoundly harmful thing to say. The “you don’t remain silent or invoke the Fifth unless you’re guilty” thing has been used against the powerless by the powerful for a very long time and it’s the sort of thing that, at best, causes otherwise good people’s — and innocent people’s — reputations to be ruined. At worse it pressures people into speaking to law enforcement or prosecutors when it’s against their best interests to do so. It’s no better to say such things simply because the target is a bonafide piece of crap.

Craig Calcaterra, Cup of Coffee, August 11, 2022

This dynamic is one of the reasons I support California’s AB 2644, a bill “that would, commencing January 1, 2024, prohibit law enforcement officers from employing threats, physical harm, deception, or psychologically manipulative interrogation tactics, as specified, during an a custodial interrogation of a person 17 years of age or younger.”

I think the police should never be allowed to use those tactics, but at a minimum they should be prohibited with children.

Pardons Are Complicated

The January 6th Committee continued to do great work outlining the conspiracy to execute a coup and keep Donald Trump in power despite losing the election.

One of the details that came out today was the list of Republican Members of Congress who asked Trump for a pardon before his leaving office.

This revelation led to a reaction from many people on Twitter and other places that there was only one reason you ask for a pardon: because you are guilty.

And that is one reason to do so. But, also, it is expensive to defend yourself against charges: even false ones.

Even innocent and falsely accused people are driven into economic ruin because of how expensive it is to defend oneself.

I doubt that is what is happening here. Pardons are complicated. But it is a reminder that we should do more to ensure people have all the opportunities possible to demonstrate their innocence.

Bad Legal Rulings and Online Misogyny Are a Toxic Mix

Michael Hobbs does an outstanding job explaining how the Amber Heard-Johnny Depp trial spun out of control and led to such a horrible outcome in this guest post at Parker Malloy’s The Present Age.

If you’re surprised to learn Heard’s narrative or the scale of the evidence supporting it, that’s because it has played almost no role in the internet free-for-all that has surrounded this case for the last six weeks. 

Hobbs puts the trial and the internet focus into context and explains why it led to a bad result in this case—and how it could lead to more problems in the future.

He also highlights something that stunned me when I first learned of it:

In hindsight, the verdict came down the minute the judge allowed the case to be televised. Jurors weren’t sequestered or sheltered from the internet in any way, meaning they were likely exposed to the same bad-faith memes and out-of-context clips as everyone else. Plus, this case has been swirling around the internet for years, making an impartial jury an impossibility in the first place. One man was allowed to stay in the jury pool after revealing a text from his wife that read, “Amber is psychotic.” (emphasis added)

How? How can that happen?

I hope you’ll read Hobb’s analysis of the case. It’s the best I’ve seen out there. I also hope you’ll subscribe to The Present Age, Parker Malloy does an excellent job with it.

Also, I know from personal experience how much of a negative impact false accusations can have on a person. But evidence is evidence. This trial is another example of what happens when sound judicial judgments lose out to a trial in the media and social media.

Process matters. We just have to do better.

What Do Cops Do?

Alex Pareene offers a theory about why the police act as they do:

Having spent many years observing cop behavior, reading news about cops, and occasionally even asking them for help, I have come to a pretty simple but comprehensive answer: They do what is easy, and avoid what is difficult.

Pareene offers several examples later in his newsletter to explain why do police have multiple people arrest someone on a minor misdemeanor while ignoring challenging investigations or not trying to stop a school massacre.

We Should Assume the Police Are Lying

The Uvalde Elementary School Massacre is the latest example of the police lying to the public about their activities.

Aaron Rupar examines how the story the police told changed dramatically as their lies were exposed as the facts came to light. As Rupar writes:

The lesson here, as my friend Alexandria Neason wrote better than I can, is that police departments lie, primarily to make themselves look like necessary servants of an endangered public. Allowing them to self-justify off the record is, at this point, inexcusable.

Rupar explores how what the police said about the imaginary school resource officer, the mythical Border Patrol agent, the nonexistent body armor, and the children who weren’t dead yet were lies designed to make law enforcement appear to be the heroes.

After all of these incidents, law enforcement has lost the benefit of the doubt.