There are three disturbing cases in the news, examples of executive excess, judicial failure and the need for oversight and reform. At the root of all three is the disregard for the Bill of Rights.
In one, David Stojcevski died June 27, 2014 after 16 days in the custody of the Macomb county jail. He went into convulsions because he was not given prescription drugs, and the withdrawal from these is potentially fatal. He was jailed for failure to pay 772 $ in fines for careless driving tickets. He was held naked for a time. Here two systems, the profit courts, the brutal or calloused police, and the frivolous and profiteering prescription drug industry combine to take the life of a 37 year old man. The only reason we are hearing about it is that there is a lawsuit. An internal investigation by the county determined that there was no problem with their procedure, leaving a naked convulsing man to die while medical help is right down the hall.
The second case occurred in Eaton county, on the West side of the state. A High school kid was stopped for flashing his bright headlights at a cop, who in fact knew that his new lights were too bright even on low beam. The cop had in mind some “Sovereign Citizen” type militia group member, but the kid was just coming home from taking his brother to the church. The kid is confused about his rights, and does not cooperate, in part because he does not have his license with him. Apparently, police do not know the difference between citizens willing to insist upon rights and dangerous domestic terrorists. The officer attempts to arrest the kid, who is face down on the ground putting his hands behind his back to be cuffed when the officer decides instead to taze or electrocute him. Tazzed, the kid fights back, and after striking the officer is shot to death, hit seven times, once in the head. Here again, the Eaton county prosecutor has determined that there is no reason to press charges, and the only reason we are hearing of the case is because of a lawsuit. The video is disturbing. It is very important to be very polite and do all one is asked to do even during an illegal traffic stop. The time and place to insist upon rights is rather when we speak and vote, or later bring the matter to court. The 17 year old does not do what he is supposed to do, but 17 year olds are not quite supposed to do what they are supposed to do. With a sense of humor, the officer might have properly identified himself and instructed the kid on how to properly uphold his rights. But does the officer understand these rights?
In a third case, a man from Indiana was released from the sex offender registry after having met a girl on line who was 14, though she told him she was 17. It has long been known that the sex offender registry lists many people who are not dangerous or unnatural, pedophiles. The categories do not allow for the distinction between intentional and unintentional statutory rape, which is indeed something, and pedophilia, which is a whole other thing, and the original aim of the registry. There are many listed even for urinating behind a dumpster while out drinking. These are subjected to proscriptions similar to the dangerous sort. The effect is dangerous because it is similar to the alerts on the back of the milk carton, which once posted kidnapped kids who were in danger, but then could not distinguish these from kids taken by the non-custodial parent. It has long been known that these list are excessive, though little has been done to correct the circumstance. NPR has covered the issue on occasion.
In the first two of these cases, the people will pay out large lawsuits for their reluctance to hold the executive branch accountable. The executives disregard the Bill of Rights, selling to us the necessity of brutality to maintain security. In both, government did not have the right to interfere with the citizen to begin. It is a circumstance of mortal danger to come into the authority of the police or jail, which is the reason that we do not allow police to simply take over, inspecting and interfering in every way. The executive officials will continue to receive their salaries, while the taxpayers foot the bill. More people will die.
In the third, the whole judicial branch seems willing to set aside common sense and prudence in order to proceed according to categories. The categories have words that sound very bad, but are very general and include other things that are not the exemplary examples. Words like “drug offence,” “weapons violation,” “mental disorder,” and “sex offense” are used rhetorically this way. Then, like a politician who believes his own rhetoric, the law begins to proceed as though it were snowed by the words. The legislature too seems unwilling to correct the circumstance by making the right distinctions. What if they freed the dumpster-pissers and were thought to be soft on sex offenders? People have so far been unable to sue for the destruction of their lives that have resulted from relatively petty offenses. Incidentally, I am not on the list, but I would like to sue someone when I am followed about the city or the grocery store, and especially if I am ever interfered with. I have one story of the day my car was in the shop, a few years ago, and I walked from the auto shop through the park to the restaurant in South Lyon, Michigan. I watched a bit of a baseball game at the park, then went to study in the restaurant, as we used to do in the old days. A very strange scene occurred at the restaurant, a scene that seems to have been arranged for me. A rather obvious pedophile type was speaking to an adolescent boy who was to do some work at the man’s house. The boy’s mother was working as a waitress at the restaurant, and so I told her that the arrangement did not look right, as I have seen such things before. But that is what I mean by being interfered with, if such a scene were staged. I went back to the park. I had a briefcase of books to study, and did some reading with a police car watching right nearby. I just don’t go to the park or walking around the city much anymore.
Two additional thoughts: In the Eaton County case, the kid may have been thinking of the gang initiation where drivers flashing their bright lights would be attacked. All he could see was the flashlight, and he asked to see a badge number. This is a difficult case to analyze, but it leads to the second thought: when an officer exceeds the authority of their office, do they not become in law a citizen like every other? That is, they do not have authority to punish, but to arrest. When they exceed their authority and punish, do they not then become subject to the laws, for example against assault and such? That is a point or question of legal theory.
And, as I had occasion to teach a four year old the other day, arrest means stop!