The Constitution, both real and imaginary.

This post by Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice reminded me of this article that’s on the cover of The Onion this week. Sadly, that’s often the case when reading criminal justice stories.


Greenfield details the Second Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision that overturned a death sentence for a man convicted of killing two police detectives, on the grounds that the prosecution’s argument – that the guy couldn’t be genuinely remorseful, if he refused to testify against himself, and that he couldn’t truly accept responsibility, if he refused to plead guilty – punished him strictly for exercising his rights. (Pleading guilty can mitigate one’s sentence, but not-pleading can’t enhance it, basically.)


And all of that is strongly encouraging and a bit of good news in a time when we don’t get it very often.


But the part in Greenfield’s summary that stood out to me was this, from the New York Times article:

At a news conference, Michael J. Palladino, the president of the Detectives Endowment Association, the union that represents detectives, said the ruling sent “shockwaves through the families of Detectives Nemorin and Andrews as well as the N.Y.P.D., and probably the entire law enforcement community.” He added, “Two judges out of the three have ruled in favor of a ruthless, remorseless killer of two undercover police officers.”

Greenfield succinctly concludes, “The Second Circuit didn’t rule against two murdered detectives and in favor of a cop killer.  It ruled in favor of the Constitution.”


And that’s what reminded me of the Onion story.


Not that Greenfield is the guy in the story, who believes that the Constitution says whatever nonsense he imagines it does. But that pretty much every time the Constitution comes up in the conversation of criminal law, the laymen and Internet-commenters rush to decry these use of the Constitution to prevent vengeance from being properly sought.


Invoking Constitutional rights to protect murderers from just punishment must be disallowed,” insists a poster at Staten Island Live. Another declares, “To spare this creatures’ life because of an inane and technicality irresponsible ruling affirms that our judicial system is a joke.”


The NY Daily News article itself describes the violation as, “The outraged prosecutors took a step beyond the strictest constitutional guidelines.”


And over at the Times-Union website, David Kaczynski (yes, Kaczynski) is involved in several arguments with commenters who similarly dismiss the failure to execute as liberal-pantywaist technicality stuff.


This is just speculation, but the thing that reminds me of the Onion is that, I’m willing to bet you my entire paycheck, none of these people want to scrap the Constitution. If you polled them – should we get rid of the Constitution of the United States – my strong belief is that you’ll get a 100% “NO” response, along with maybe the suggestion that you were born in Kenya. Because everyone loves and believes in the Constitution – just not the real one that guarantees people rights, but the imaginary one that would never allow an “EVIL THUG” to be spared an execution because of some nonsense about rights.

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