19 July 2011

Yeah, This’ll Solve Problems

How about we create a law that makes it illegal to pass legislation in the immediate aftermath of a media-hyped trial instead of this one:

There should be a new law created called Caylee's Law that will make it a felony for a parent or guardian to not notify law enforcement of a child going missing within 24 hours
Let's keep another case like Caylee Anthony out of the courts.  Contact your State Senators and Representatives.

In many ways, this reminds of the rationale behind gun control:  if we just have more laws on the books we can prevent more injustice.  And it suffers from the same problems as gun control:  If someone is going to commit murder, they probably aren’t going to be concerned with violating a lesser crime.

I suspect the real rationale for passing this law is to ensure that despicable moms can be put in jail when the prosecutor fails to make their case on murder.  Of course, the circumstances around Caylee’s murder are somewhat exceptional—how many future moms are going to allegedly murder their child and then delay reporting their child’s disappearance?

What’s lost in this discussion is the potential abuses of this legislation.  As Harvey Silverglate has amply demonstrated in his wonder tome Three Felonies a Day, most laws are used to convict people who never intended to break the law and thought they were acting in good faith.  And plenty of seemingly innocuous laws, like those against mail fraud, for example, have been used to prosecute people who were only guilty of being targeted by prosecutors.  Why, then, does anyone think it is a good idea to give prosecutors more power?  Especially when doing so doesn’t even guarantee that justice will be better served as a result?

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