The consequence of stupid police work
Interesting piece here in the Times that looks at how the legal system generally throws out ill-gotten evidence. That is, if you're a weed dealer and cops find you with, oh I don't know, say twenty pounds of the lime-green in your trunk, but they pull you over and search you on bogus cause, you could get off. I'm sympathetic to the prosecutors on this one, and I'd be more sympathetic if most of the cases in the Times piece weren't drug-related. My biggest problem is violent crime. But I could see how a killer could go free on the same sort of snafu. Any lawyers in the house? I'd ask Hilzoy, but she's guesting for Andrew this week.
UPDATE: Meh,"buying it" is a little strong, batojar. I said I'm "sympathetic to the prosecutors," and then I qualified that sympathy with my lack of enthusiasm for pursuing drug laws. In other words, I see the point--sort of. That said, I think there is a couple of issues here that could be unpacked. I'm not a lawyer, and so I'm completely open to one coming in here slapping me up some. So with that magnificent hedge, I proceed forward:
1.) As some of you know who read this blog, the issue of police power is not abstract to me. I love cops. But I think bad cops face too little punishment for making bad decisions that cost innocent lives. I don't think the criminal courts are the best place to handle that issue. But I believe that I cop who kills someone who's innocent should never carry a gun again, and probably shouldn't be a cop. It doesn't seem too much to trade your livelihood for an innocent life. More to the point, it just seems like if your shooting the good guys, you may not have the judgment necessary to be a police officer. I say all that to say, I'd probably be willing to see some bending when a cop screws up on a search, if I knew that actual rogue cops would be punished. Of course that issue is downplayed in the Times piece, some.
2.) I am curious as to how common all of this is. I mean, how big of a problem is this? In real terms how many cases are lost because of this? I didn't see any hard numbers in the Times piece. I'd want to know that. We could be talking about a very minor league problem.