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» Courts, Prosecutors » Wasting Tax Dollars

Wasting Tax Dollars

I currently represent a client charged with possession of marijuana. By itself, that’s not unusual. What is unusual, however, is that the state claims he had weed in prison. He just finished serving his 18th year, and he’s got a little over 56 years left to go. He’s middle-aged.

Why would the state choose to prosecute such a case? What else can they do to him? He’s going to enjoy his field trips to court. If he goes to trial, it’s going to feel good to wear street clothes and take the restraints off, even if it’s just for a little while. What kind of plea is a “lifer” going to want to take?

The prosecutor knows all of this because I told him. He doesn’t seem to care.

Dockets are already too full. Everyone in the system is already overworked. When I hear about budget cuts, I wonder how much of the budget goes to meaningless prosecutions. Win or lose, the practical effect of my client’s case is going to be the same: it won’t matter. We will all just be a little bit busier for the next few months.

I will file motions. In this case, there may be a lot of them. I suspect I will have to litigate some discovery issues, and I will spend time dealing with voir dire and jury instructions. I’ll write and send out a variety of letters and notices before all is said and done. The state will have to deal with everything I submit, and the judge will have to rule. I will conduct officer interviews, prepare my arguments, and devote a few days to trial.

Trials are expensive. Court personnel will be in attendance, and the sheriff will have to transport my client there from prison. My client will need clothes, and a court reporter will have to be there for all proceedings. Jurors will take time from their busy schedules to attend trial, and the judge will not be hearing other cases. The courtroom will be occupied, air-conditioning blasting.

I enjoy trial, but I’m not crazy about wasting tax dollars on pointless cases. This case is pointless. Does anyone disagree? Under what theory of punishment can the prosecution be justified? Why should taxpayers be forced to pay for such a ridiculous show?

Please, someone enlighten me.

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7 Responses to "Wasting Tax Dollars"

  1. Jay says:

    Three words: “War. On. Drugs.”

    There are some valid points raised above, but I think it’s a numbers game to placate the masses and make them believe they are somehow safer now that Gov’t is in on the case (which is, in plain terms, complete bullshit). It doesn’t matter to Gov’t how much money is spent if you Gov’t can say at year’s end that X number of marijuana convictions made the public safer, nor does it matter who is convicted (medical purposes? Tough. You’re going to jail, buddy!), and it certainly does not matter how a conviction comes about or the costs of said conviction. The public will believe they are safer, politicians will be elected and re-elected, and the wheel spins further.

    It’s an additional box ticked against an absurdly high number to be incremented by one, and for what? So politicians can claim they’re doing something good while doing nothing at all but spending our money and making us miserable.

    Maybe. I dunno.

  2. Bryan says:

    I agree with you… this is insane.

    What the state needs to do is offer to reduce the terms of convicted low-level offenders if they rat out the prison officials providing the contraband. They’d also have to move them to a different facility.

    Obviously, the DA’s office has a such a markedly low conviction rate that it’s a political liability, and this conviction is necessary to give a bump to the DA’s “success” rate.

  3. Matt Brown says:

    My understanding is that there are lots of things DOC can do to an inmate “in house.” When you’re dealing with a lifer, those are the only things that make any sense. Criminal charges definitely don’t make any sense.

  4. Andrew Becke says:

    Well, I guess the question is, if you don’t prosecute people who bring drugs into the jail, are you just encouraging others to do the same? I agree that there may not be much point with this guy, but if someone was there doing a 2 year sentence, additional time would seem to have some purpose. Don’t they usually just handle inmate contraband “in house” at the prison by denying privileges, giving solitary confinement, etc?

  5. max says:

    There’s your answer, the prosecutor is being a nice guy. Going to court is no doubt the high point of your client’s decade, and the prosecutor is providing your client with a nice vacation from prison.

  6. Matt Brown says:

    If the prosecutor wasn’t normally such a nice and reasonable guy, I’d say possibility number three was a virtual certainty.

  7. Jeff Gamso says:

    The formal reason, I suppose, is “We have to send a message that this sort of thing will not be tolerated and that there are consequences. The informal reason, I suppose, is that the prosecutor (in conjunction with the prison system) harbors some vague hope that your client will roll on whoever provided the weed. We pursue your guy in order to get the person who’s bringing contraband into the prison.

    Of course, that’s a much easier sell if your client actually has something to lose from a guilty verdict. (Our capital client, who wasn’t being offered any deals, suddenly got one after he managed to get hold of gun and take a shot at a corrections officer while on the high security floor of the county jail – anything to find out who smuggled in the gun.)

    The third possibility is that they’re fools and assholes.

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