Is The System Really That Broken?

Is The System Really That Broken?

Observations on Public Distrust and Potential Solutions

 By Ken K. Gourdin, CP

I.          Introduction – If commentary which often appears in response to media coverage of police, prosecutors, judges, and juries (along with that which often appears in response to attempts to defend them) is accurate, there is a widespread distrust of the American criminal justice system among the public it is intended to serve.  Because they are on the front lines of the fight against crime and disorder, police officers are prime targets for this distrust.  According to many, such distrust is well founded simply by virtue of the facts that police officers possess such power, along with wide discretion in its exercise.  Prosecutors, too, are entrusted with enormous power and wide discretion, and critics claim that prosecutors routinely abuse these tools to abet law enforcement misuse of power by looking the other way.  Nor is overlooking abuses confined to prosecutors.  Critics claim that judges, too, routinely abet abuse of power by police and prosecutors by failing to rein in their abuses.  At the end of the day, police officers, prosecutors, and judges all are government employees.  While it would seem that a perfect antidote to overreaching by these employees is increased involvement in the system by private citizens, citizens often forego this opportunity (and shirk this duty) by proffering trivial excuses as reasons why they cannot serve on juries.  Finally, potential solutions are offered, along with concluding comments, in the last section.

II.        Police Officers – On January 1, 2011, I published an op-ed in The Salt Lake Tribune regarding the police shooting of an armed man on the grounds of the Oquirrh Mountain LDS Temple.  In it, I critiqued on-line comments to coverage of the incident in the Tribune in which commenters offered various alternatives to shooting the man.  Among such alternatives were firing a warning shot into the air (a poor option according to the laws of physics because “what goes up must come down,” and what comes down may injure or kill a totally innocent bystander); shooting to wound rather than to kill (bad police procedure because adrenaline already makes officers less accurate, and shooting at an extremity in such circumstances would increase the likelihood that officers would miss entirely); using nondeadly force (a poor option because of the likelihood it would simply have angered him, leaving him free to harm or kill someone else); and allowing him to flee with a weapon (a poor option because officers can ill-afford to give someone involved in such an incident the benefit of the doubt).[1]

As a counterpoint to the incident at the Oquirrh Mountain LDS Temple, in 1994, St. George Police were called to the scene of a man wielding a hatchet.  While some in the public were critical of officers’ handling of the Oquirrh Mountain Temple incident because it led to the man’s death, members of the public played a different role (in fact, one which was diametrically opposed) in the St. George incident.  While some bystanders in St. George called for officers to use a different, far more drastic alternative, officers were able calmly and patiently to defuse the volatile situation without anyone getting hurt.  In response to that incident, I wrote the following in a letter to the editor, also published in The Salt Lake Tribune:

I must comment on the deplorable actions of bystanders as St. George police tried to subdue the disturbed man who was carrying a hatchet, as reported in The Tribune June 7. The police acted in a calm, patient and appropriate manner by showing the restraint necessary to defuse the situation.

Because they carry firearms and are sometimes forced into the regrettable situation of threatening to use them, as well as having to use them, police are often stereotyped as having a lack of respect for human life. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the vast majority of cases, if there is any other option available, officers would prefer to take it rather [than] use their guns.

If it had come to that, I’m sure that at least one of those bystanders would have whined and moaned about another case of “excessive force.” But I ask, who has greater respect for human life? The bystanders who called, “shoot him,” or the police officers who didn’t?[2]

It’s possible that more South Jordan officers are “trigger-happy” while comparatively fewer St. George officers are, or that South Jordan officers in 2011 were “trigger-happy” while St. George officers in 1994 were not, but I doubt it.  As such, I believe the contrast in the respective public responses to these incidents (i.e., on the one hand, it was bystander members of the public who called “shoot him” in the St. George incident, while on the other hand, it was members of the public commenting on Tribune coverage of the incident who called South Jordan officers “trigger-happy”) is instructive.

If on-line comments to my January 1, 2011 Tribune op-ed are to be believed, the perception that officers are quick to resort to deadly force even when other viable alternatives exist apparently is widespread.  But contrary to that perception, no agency employs a majority, or even a sizeable minority, of “trigger-happy” officers.  As I told a former-police-officer friend of mine who had been involved in a shooting incident, even though it’s not fair because they are neither psychologically nor sociologically “well-engineered” to do so, we ask both our police officers and our soldiers to shoot (and to shoot at) people. They must do so to ensure that they (and that we) can go home to our families at the end of their shift or deployment.  And even though the choice to use such force is a difficult one, if the choice is between using such force or allowing someone to harm or kill an innocent person I hope they would choose to use such force every time.

As I also told my former-officer friend, the reason we know that those we ask to use firearms on their fellow human beings are neither psychologically nor sociologically “well-engineered” to do so is because if they were, we would call them psychopaths or sociopaths.   While there seems to be a widespread perception among at least a minority of the public that the very reason police officers and soldiers choose those career paths is because of a tendency toward such maladaptive psychological and sociological traits, the widespread incidence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among both groups apparently refutes this notion.  By contrast, even though I am a layperson, I doubt it’s much of an overstatement to say that psychopaths and sociopaths by definition are virtually immune to PTSD (at least when it comes to the violence which they, themselves, instigate).

It is true that the police, as the point of initial contact between the public and the criminal justice system, are seen as a primary reason for the system’s dysfunction.  However, the public’s distrust is not limited to police officers, as further examination will indicate.

III.       Prosecutors – While police officers are on the “front lines” in the effort to enforce the law and to maintain order, the public’s distrust is not limited just to them.  While prosecutors’ sworn duty to uphold the law includes the responsibility of ensuring that neither the public nor the officers who protect it violate the law, the corollary to the apparently-widespread (but erroneous) public perception that officers are “trigger-happy” and otherwise eager to abuse their power is that prosecutors readily abet instances of law enforcement’s improper use of power by simply “rubber-stamping” them.  In a February 5, 2011 Salt Lake Tribune op-ed, I disputed that perception.  I wrote:

The relationship between law enforcement and prosecutors is not as close as critics claim. Many officers I know wish they had such a cozy relationship with prosecutors, as the officers scratch their heads in puzzlement when prosecutors refuse to prosecute on seeming technicalities after officers’ “good arrests.”

Municipal attorneys defend municipalities and officers against suits arising from justified law enforcement actions. In rare cases, they also prosecute law enforcement actions that are unjustified. They could not do the latter effectively if their first instinct were merely to “rubber stamp” law enforcement decisions. . . .

Contrary to the persistent, prevalent public perception, the reason that prosecutors so often find officers’ use of firearms (and other actions) justified is not because prosecutors merely “rubber stamp” law enforcement decisions; rather, it’s because officers almost invariably know the law and follow it, even when faced with the prospect of making split-second, life-or-death decisions.[3][4]

No less a luminary that well-known Utah criminal defense attorney Ronald J. (“Ron”) Yengich took issue with my position that prosecutors don’t simply rubber-stamp law enforcement decisions.  In a February 22, 2011 letter to the editor, he said this:

I could not disagree more with Ken Gourdin’s “Prosecutors don’t simply rubber-stamp police decisions” (Opinion, Feb. 5). In my 36 years of practicing law and defending many people who have reacted identically to police officers using nondeadly and deadly force under virtually identical circumstances, the police officer is never charged with a crime and the citizen is forced to defend himself or herself in court.

When confronted with issues of self-defense, defense of a third party, or defense of a habitation, the presumption of innocence should apply equally to both police and non-police officers. The reality is that there is a super-presumption of innocence when it comes to police officers acting in the line of duty, and there is little similar presumption for the citizen who is legitimately armed and reacts in an identical fashion.

Compare the sheer numbers of police officers who are cleared under these shooting circumstances with the cases of others who are legitimately armed and act in self-defense. Prosecutors don’t just rubber stamp police decisions to shoot, but also accord police actions a greater presumption of legitimacy than regular citizens in this culture that allows almost every citizen to carry a gun for self-defense.[5]

In a March 19, 2011 letter to the editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, I responded to Mr. Yengich thus:

In “Favoring the police” (Forum, Feb. 22), Ron Yengich states that citizens using deadly force are treated differently than police when they react “in an identical fashion.” Just how identical two sets of circumstances are depends on how thinly one slices the salami.

Yengich ignores important differences between officers and citizens: Police are far better trained in the use of deadly force, they have more resources and, most important, they are tasked by the state with initiating the administration of justice to lawbreakers.

I am justified in using deadly force against an armed intruder who breaks into my home obviously intent on harm. Once that intruder flees, the threat and my justification cease. I am not then justified in shooting him regardless of whatever threat he may pose to the general public.

Conversely, if I notify the police who later stop someone matching the description, he must obey officers’ commands to stop, surrender any weapons and submit to further investigation or arrest.

If he does not, officers may use deadly force because they reasonably believe that he, having already threatened someone [with a weapon], poses a continuing danger.

If Yengich does not like that distinction, he’s free to argue to change the law.[6]

Not surprisingly (given his many years of successful practice as a fine defense attorney) on-line comments both to his letter and to my response overwhelmingly favored Mr. Yengich’s views.  (I wonder how many of my detractors’ views were colored by the fact that they—or a close friend or loved one—have ever used Yengich’s services?)  His exalted status as a respected member of the Bar notwithstanding however, the law says what the law says: civilians can use deadly force to repel an immediate threat of death or serious bodily injury, but they may not use that force once the threat ceases.  Law enforcement officers, on the other hand, may use deadly force on that same intruder if he refuses to stop, surrender his weapon, and submit to further investigation or to arrest because they reasonably believe that he, having already threatened someone with a weapon, poses a continuing danger to the public at large.

A rule of logic says that if a proposition is stated as an absolute, that proposition is disproved when even one instance is found which is contrary to the absolute.  If some prosecutors’ critics hew to the line that prosecutors always side with law enforcement, that position was undermined when Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill found that Salt Lake Police Officer Matt Giles’s use of deadly force while attempting to apprehend a juvenile fleeing in a vehicle was unjustified.[7]  Feeling vindicated in the light of the withering criticism I had received, I wrote the following:

Some months ago, I was roundly excoriated and thoroughly trounced by online Tribune commenters for daring to suggest that prosecutors do more than simply rubber-stamp police decisions (“Prosecutors don’t just rubber-stamp police decisions,” Opinion, Feb. 5).

Whether one agrees or disagrees with Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill’s finding that the recent shooting by Salt Lake City Police Officer Matt Giles of a juvenile fleeing in a vehicle was not justified, his decision does prove my point.[8]

IV.       Judges – Nor is public distrust of the system limited to police and prosecutors.  According to the most suspicious segment of the public, not only do police routinely abuse the power entrusted to them, and not only do prosecutors simply “rubber-stamp” such abuses, judges, too, are complicit in the system’s malfunctioning because they routinely decline to pass judgment on the improper actions of police and prosecutors.

Many critics cite the actions of U.S. District Judge Dee V. Benson for the federal District of Utah as an example of such judicial misconduct.  Tim DeChristopher was arrested and charged with placing fraudulent bids at an auction for oil and gas leases on parcels of land controlled by the United States Bureau of Land Management.  It was discovered that he had no intention of paying for parcels he won and that he had artificially inflated the price paid for several parcels he did not ultimately win.  In a July 29, 2011 editorial, The Salt Lake Tribune criticized Judge Benson for refusing to allow DeChristopher to use the defense of necessity based on the premise that he was trying to prevent the dire environmental impacts of global warming which allegedly is caused by use of fossil fuels, and for allegedly curtailing DeChristopher’s First Amendment constitutional right to freedom of expression.[9]

With regard to Judge Benson not allowing a necessity defense, while the facts of each case (and hence, judicial decisions based on what defenses to allow or to prohibit) are different, in an op-ed I submitted (but which the Tribune declined to publish) I argued that in this case, Judge Benson was right to prevent DeChristopher from using a necessity defense for several reasons.  Briefly, these reasons are because global warming and its potential solutions are policy issues, not legal ones; because any decision rendered by a court on global warming likely would have unforeseen adverse economic impacts; because the exact role of humans in global warming still is a matter of considerable debate; because the necessity defense usually is only available to one with no other viable alternatives, and DeChristopher had other alternatives through legislative and policy channels; and because the link between DeChristopher’s action and his stated objective was too tenuous to support a necessity defense.

While the decision of what defenses to allow varies according to the facts of each case, my response to the criticism that Judge Benson allegedly curtailed DeChristopher’s First Amendment rights is more universally applicable.  That response was, in part:

As to the accusation that Benson sentenced DeChristopher for his words rather than his actions, it is true that DeChristopher, like all Americans, has a right to free speech under the First Amendment [to the United States Constitution]. However, as officers of the court, one factor which judges and other sentencing authorities must consider in determining an appropriate sentence is a convicted person’s likelihood of reoffending.

Unsurprisingly, one factor that sentencing authorities must seriously consider in determining whether a convicted person is likely to reoffend is what he himself has said about his likelihood of reoffending. If sentencing authorities were to ignore a convicted person’s own statements about the matter, they would breach their duties as officers of the court.

“DeChristopher was charged for his actions, not his words,” the Tribune recently editorialized, “a distinction that would not escape a first-year law student, let alone a judge who, unlike Benson, would not choose to make a mockery of the First Amendment he is sworn to uphold.” But DeChristopher has no First Amendment right to proclaim, with impunity, that he would engage in similar conduct if given a chance, or to encourage others to do so. In that regard, at least, he is like any other offender.[10]

“DeChristopher’s remorse or lack thereof should be irrelevant,” one on-line commenter to the Tribune editorial said.  It’s true—contrary to the averments of so many ultra “law-and-order” types—that certainly neither all crime nor all criminals are created equal.  However, regardless of the crime, remorse (or lack thereof) certainly is relevant.  One certainly would never argue that remorse is irrelevant where other, more serious crimes (say, murder or rape, for example) are concerned. Whatever the crime or crimes involved, parole boards, judges, and  prosecutors routinely make decisions about the length of time convicts are incarcerated (or about the length of time they should be) based on how much remorse they demonstrate.  The less remorse they demonstrate, the greater the likelihood they will be incarcerated for longer periods of time.  The reason for this is that one of the aims of criminal sanctions (including incarceration) is rehabilitation, and one indicator of the degree to which convicts have been rehabilitated is their level of remorse.  In determining DeChristopher’s sentence, Judge Benson was right to take into account DeChristopher’s expressions of lack of regret, his statements that he would do the same thing if confronted with similar circumstances in the future, and his encouragement of others to engage in similar behavior.

V.        Juries – If police and prosecutors as a general rule really are corrupt, and if judges are complicit in this corruption by their refusal to intervene, then it would seem that any mechanism which invites the participation of regular citizens in the justice system should be at least part of a fitting and necessary antidote. Utah Supreme Court Justice Matthew B. Durrant explained the process and importance of jury service in an April 28, 2012 op-ed in The Salt Lake Tribune. Justice Durrant’s invitation to serve offers these concluding remarks on the importance of jury service:

Our legal system could not function without your service. We are very grateful to each person who serves, and we have built an environment that supports and encourages jurors. We have spread the responsibility as broadly as possible to minimize the commitment of any one person. We have written jury instructions, which are summaries of the law, in plain and simple language. We try to be efficient so we do not waste your time. And our courthouses are modern and clean.

Have you been called for jury duty? If so, please serve. Someone very much like you has a case in Utah’s courts. Your participation helps to ensure its fair and just resolution.[11]

Alas, it would seem that while many citizens feel to criticize the alleged corruption of police and prosecutors and the alleged apathy of judges toward this corruption, they are too busy to become a part of the solution by getting involved themselves. Lehi Justice Court Judge Paul C. Farr echoed Justice Durrant’s thoughts on the importance of jury service in a subsequent op-ed, also lamenting the triviality of excuses proffered by those wishing to avoid such service when those excuses are compared with the weight of what is at stake.

I was disheartened, but not surprised, by many of the comments [about Utah Sepreme Court Justice Matthew B. Durrant’s op-ed]. Though I do not believe they reflect the view of the majority, they are similar to comments I have often heard in court and elsewhere: How can we be expected to serve on a jury when they pay $18.50 for the first day of service? How can I make rent and my car payment if I have to miss work for a mere $18.50? My job or other activities are just too important for me to serve.

Jury service is a cornerstone of our judicial system and our democracy. The jury system safeguards individuals from potential government abuse. Individuals charged with a crime can be tried by a jury of their peers, rather than by a judge, who is, at the end of the day, a government employee.

This right was thought so important that it was included in the Bill of Rights and has also been included in the constitutions of the several states. It is this right that separates our judicial system from much of the world. Yet, what good is this right if individuals are unwilling to serve?[12]

John Edwards, who has served on several juries, wrote an op-ed which was published in the May 26, 2012 edition of the Tribune, summarizing his experience and echoing Justice Durrant’s and Judge Farr’s thoughts on the importance of jury service.  He concludes with this bit of advice:  “All jurors in [the cases on which they are called to serve] will have different opinions about the worth of the experience and the nature of justice. My advice is simple, if you are called and have a true hardship, ask to be released. If it is not an inconvenience, then serve.”[13]

The triviality of excuses often proffered in efforts to escape jury duty was illustrated by one commenter (“Ray”) to Edwards’ op-ed.  No doubt employing a good deal of irony, he said, “The problem with jury duty is that it takes away from important and meaningful things like [the television show] Jersey Shore, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Heaven forbid [that] a person [have] to actually contribute something to the American justice system[ ] rather [than] simply complain[ing] about it.”[14]

Adding to the Durrant-Farr chorus, and seeking to draw a parallel between people’s reluctance to serve on juries on the one hand and their corresponding lack of faith in the justice system on the other, I wrote the following in a letter to the editor which appeared in the Tribune on May 11, 2012:

Recently, two distinguished Utah judges encouraged citizens to serve on juries: Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Matthew B. Durrant (“Been called to jury duty?” Opinion, April 28) and [Lehi City] Justice Court Judge Paul C. Farr (“Jury duty too much to ask?” Opinion, May 8).

I’ve written [before] . . . in defense of prosecutors (“Prosecutors don’t simply rubber-stamp police decisions,” Opinion, Feb. 5, 2011).

Local defense attorney Ronald Yengich dissented in a letter to the editor (“Favoring the police,” Forum, Feb. 22, 2011). Online comments overwhelmingly favored Yengich’s views.

Judges, too, have received their share of opprobrium, both from Tribune readers in online comments and from The Tribune itself.

If I’m wrong, and if, in fact, police do routinely misuse the power entrusted to them while prosecutors and judges routinely overlook abuses, it seems to me that the best antidote for such overreaching is the constitutional guarantee afforded an accused of a trial by his or her peers.

After all, who will stand up to allegedly corrupt police, prosecutors and judges if jurors and he juries on which they serve won’t do it?

It’s easier to complain than to be a part of the solution, I suppose.[15]

VI.       Conclusion: The Solution Requires More Than Simply Complaining – Having outlined the problem of public distrust of the system and of its components, the question now presents itself, what, if anything, is to be done about it?  I firmly believe that vigilance is the price of liberty, and that a certain distrust of government and its agents is healthy.  After all, had it not been for such distrust there likely would have been no American Revolution, and we all still would be loyal British subjects today.  Still, there comes a point at which a healthy distrust of government and its agents devolves into a pathological form of psychosis in which seemingly every action taken by police, prosecutors, judges, and juries becomes a fitting subject, not only for critique, but for scorn and derision.  While they are far from perfect, our systems of government and justice are the best systems in the world.  While there are notable exceptions, the vast majority of law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges and jurors are as worthy of our respect as is the system in which they participate.

What I said in the Tribune about citizens’ reluctance to serve on juries is applicable to the complaints skeptics often lodge about the system as a whole: It’s easier to complain than to be a part of the solution.  Critics often are quick to point out the alleged shortcomings of police, prosecutors, judges and jurors.  But ask a critic when was the last time that he or she lodged a formal complaint with an agency (or with the state’s division of Peace Officer Standards and Training) about an officer; when was the last time that he or she lodged a formal complaint with a judge or with the Utah State Bar regarding a prosecutor; when was the last time he or she lodged a formal complaint with the Utah Judicial Conduct Commission regarding alleged misconduct by a judge; or when was the last time he or she brought an allegation of juror misconduct to the attention of a judge, prosecutor, or defense attorney, and such questions likely will, as often as not, be met with a prolonged silence in response.

Or, supposing that one actually has lodged a complaint with a law enforcement agency about an officer’s conduct, with the Bar and/or with a judge regarding a prosecutor, with the Judicial Conduct Commission regarding a judge, or with a judge, prosecutor, or defense attorney regarding alleged juror misconduct, but nothing ever came of the complaint.  A follow-up question could be, “What evidence did you offer in support of your claim?” and, likely as not, that question, too, would be met with a prolonged silence.  Something more than a complainant’s mere say-so must undergird the complaint: if not, it’s little wonder nothing ever came of it, yet the complainant simply sees alleged inaction on the part of the party complained to as yet more evidence of the system’s dysfunction. And those who complain (both formally and informally) about incidents involving criminal justice system actors, as well as those who complain that “nothing was done” despite a formal complaint rarely (if ever) have all the facts.

What people often fail to understand is that just as “Joe Citizen” must be accorded certain rights, due process, and procedural safeguards when accused of wrongdoing, so must officers, prosecutors, judges, and jurors be accorded those things when accused of wrongdoing.  Mere dissatisfaction with an outcome or interaction is insufficient to support a claim of wrongdoing.  Without more than a bare allegation, a charge of wrongdoing is unlikely to be sustained.  And the person complained of must have his or her rights safeguarded, must receive due process, and must be protected by procedural safeguards.  Given the frequency of interaction between these officials and the public they are supposed to serve, complaints from the public are apt to be quite common (whether evidence exists to support them or not). It’s at least as important to safeguard the rights of public officials who are accused of wrongdoing as it is to safeguard the rights of members of the general public who are accused of wrongdoing.  Too often, though, the attitude of too many in the public regarding such cases is, “Rights, due process, and procedural protections for me, but not for thee.”

But what if there is substance to support an allegation, but the complaint still doesn’t result in action being taken against an alleged wrongdoer?  Is the public simply “stuck” with the wrongdoer and his or her action?  No.  But the solution of last resort is one which, in comparison to simply complaining about the status quo, is comparatively difficult.  If I disagree with the actions of a law enforcement agency, I can either vote out its head directly (if he or she was elected), or I can vote out the person (a mayor, usually) responsible for appointing him or her.  Likewise, I can do the same if I disagree with a prosecutor’s actions.  If I disagree with the actions of a judge (including action he or she failed to take with respect to juror misconduct), that judge is subject to a retention election every four years.[16]

In summary, too many of those who complain most vociferously about the system’s dysfunction are content to let their complaints be the end of the matter.  When was the last time they wrote their local newspaper, representative, senator, mayor, city council member, police chief, or sheriff?  When was the last time they contacted the agency responsible for investigating alleged wrongdoing by an officer, administrator, prosecutor, judge or juror?  When was the last time they actually served on a jury when called rather than attempting to shirk that duty with a poor excuse?  When was the last time they attended a city council meeting or a legislative session?  For that matter, when was the last time they simply bothered to vote?  The First Amendment to the Constitution, along with its analog in the state Constitution, gives them the right to complain, formally or informally, however much they wish to do so.  But taking the time to marshal the evidence necessary to support a complaint and to bring that complaint to the attention of the appropriate authority will at least ensure that their voice is heard, not just by the public at large but by those charged with rectifying wrongdoing.  If appropriate action isn’t taken in that event, then perhaps their voice deserves to stand out above the cacophonous din of those who do nothing more than complain.  Until then, if the system is truly as broken as its critics say it is, we have only ourselves to blame.

____________________________________

END NOTES

[1] See Ken K. Gourdin (January 1, 2011), “Officers sometimes forced to shoot armed suspects,” The Salt Lake Tribune A11, available on line at http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/opinion/50953459-82/officers-suspect-shoot-force.html.csp, last accessed July 12, 2012.

[2] Ken K. Gourdin (June 13, 1994), “Police showed restraint” (Letter to the editor), The Salt Lake Tribune A8, copy in author’s possession.

 [3]  Ken K. Gourdin (February 5, 2011), “Prosecutors don’t just rubber-stamp police decisions,” The Salt Lake Tribune A11, http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/opinion/51184835-82/officers-law-prosecutors-enforcement.html.csp, last accessed July 25, 2012.

 [4] It’s certainly true that one case is a completely inadequate sample upon which a completely-uninitiated, complete outsider safely can make (perhaps overly-) broad generalizations about a completely foreign justice system.  Certainly, the United States is not without its share of overzealous prosecutors (e.g., Mike Nifong in the Duke University lacrosse alleged rape case).  However, for an example in which genuine rubber-stamping of police by prosecutors seems certain to have occurred, one need look no further than the case of Amanda Knox, the American studying abroad in Perugia, Italy who spent four years in an Italian prison after being convicted of killing her roommate before she was freed after prevailing on appeal.  See, e.g., Nathaniel Rich (June 27, 2011), “The Never[-]ending Nightmare of Amanda Knox[:]  How a naive kid from Seattle was coerced into confessing to a brutal murder and wound up sentenced to 26 years in an Italian jail,” Rolling Stone, accessed on line at http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/the-neverending-nightmare-of-amanda-knox-20110627#ixzz21jI9vQD7, on July 26, 2012.  For a description of Italian prosecutor Giuliano Mignini, see page three.  On page four, Rich describes the lead prosecutor’s role in the Italian justice system thus: “Mignini’s official title is ‘public minister,’ a hybrid of detective and district attorney. This makes Mignini less a prosecution lawyer than a Grand Inquisitor. He leads the investigation, giving directions to the police under his care, and serves as lead prosecutor during the trial. This arrangement means that the police often find themselves under professional obligation to look for evidence that supports the prosecutor’s hypotheses. This is especially true in high-profile cases, when there is enormous pressure to explain quickly what exactly happened.”  However frequently “rubber-stamping” might occur in the American justice system, such frequency surely pales in comparison to its frequency in systems in which police and prosecutors essentially are one and the same.

 [5] Ronald J. “Ron” Yengich (February 22, 2011), “Favoring the police” (Letter to the editor), The Salt Lake Tribune A14, http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/opinion/51257813-82/police-defense-officers-presumption.html.csp, last accessed July 18, 2012.

 [6] Ken K. Gourdin (March 20, 2011), “On deadly force” (Letter to the editor), The Salt Lake Tribune O2, http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/opinion/51450925-82/deadly-force-police-officers.html.csp, last accessed July 18, 2012, bracketed phrase included in originalsubmission but deleted by editor.

 [7] See Sheena McFarland and Erin Alberty (July 19, 2011), “West Valley officer-involvedshooting ruled unjustified,” The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/52211596-78/cardon-shooting-officer-police.html.csp , last accessed July 12, 2012.

 [8] Ken K. Gourdin (August 3, 2011), “Salt Lake police shooting” (Letter to the editor), The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/opinion/52262644-82/police-shooting-decisions-gill.html.csp, last accessed July 16, 2012.

 [9] Editorial (July 29, 2011), “A sad day: Benson ruling unconscionable,” The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/opinion/52280590-82/dechristopher-benson-government-prison.html.csp, last accessed July 25, 2012.

[10] Ken K. Gourdin (circa July 29, 2011), “Tribune criticism of Judge Benson is unfair,” submitted to (but declined for publication by) The Salt Lake Tribune, copy in author’s possession (also available on line at http://www.greatgourdini.wordpress.com/2012/07/26/tribune-criticism-of-judge-benson-is-unfair, last accessed July 25, 2012).

 [11] Matthew B. Durrant (April 28, 2012), “Been called to jury duty?” The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/opinion/53988998-82/jury-service-person-jurors.html.csp, last accessed July 26, 2012.

 [12] Paul C. Farr, (May 8, 2012), “Jury duty too much to ask?” The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/opinion/54045146-82/jury-service-ask-duty.html.csp, last accessed July 26, 2012.

 [13] John Edwards (May 26, 2012), “Tales from the jury box,” The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/opinion/54163594-82/jury-judge-case-court.html.csp, lastaccessed July 31, 2012.

 [14] Id., (see “Ray’s” comment to Edwards’s op-ed below the article as it appears on line), last accessed July 31, 2012.

 [15] Ken K. Gourdin (May 11, 2012), “If not juries, what?” (Letter to the editor), The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/opinion/54071914-82/jury-police-sltrib-duty.html.csp, last accessed July 25, 2012.

 [16] Anyone who believes that such judicial retention elections are merely pro forma ought to ask (among others) former Utah Third District Judge Leslie Lewis.  See Lisa Rosetta (November 8, 2006) “Third district judge Leslie Lewis ousted,” The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.archive.sltrib.com/printfriendly.php?id=4621589&itype=NGPSID, accessed July 31, 2012. The Tribune even editorialized against Judge Lewis’s retention.  See editorial (November 2, 2006), “Vote ‘No’ on retention of Judge Leslie Lewis,” The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com/opinion/ci_4586670, accessed July 31, 2012

About kenngo1969

Just as others must breathe to live, I must write. I have been writing creatively almost ever since I learned to write, period! I have written fiction, book- and article-length nonfiction, award-winning poetry, news, sports, features, and op-eds. I hope, one day, to write some motivational nonfiction, a decent-selling novel, a stage play, and a screen play.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s