Quote of the Day: Modern Day Witch Hunts Editionby Stephen Littau
If you haven’t been over to The Agitator recently to read what Radley Balko’s guest bloggers have been writing in his absence over the last several weeks, you are missing some grade A quality posts. This post from William Anderson “Costs and Benefits of Modern ‘Sex Crime’ Witch Hunts” is the creme de la creme.
In this post, Anderson details how easily innocent people can be charged, tried, and convicted of sex crimes due to federal laws such as the Child Abuse Protection and Treatment Act of 1974 (A.K.A. the Mondale Act) and rape shield laws which disadvantage the accused by lowering the normal criminal standard of proof guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to a preponderance of evidence. Not only does the accused have to try to prove a negative (ex: that s/he did not sexually assault the accuser) but also pay out of pocket for legal defense that can cost in the millions of dollars to do so (meanwhile, the state can easily bear the costs of prosecuting the case with taxpayer money).
People who are accused [of sex crimes] either must depend upon a public defender or must pay for legal representation from their own resources, and it does not take long for the money spigot to run dry. Tonya Craft literally had close to a million dollars to spend on her defense, and she still ran out of funds before the case even came to trial. In the infamous Duke Lacrosse Case, each of the three defendants had to spend more than $1 million apiece just to try to debunk what were transparently-false charges.
The costs can be substantial. I know one attorney who specializes in such cases who requires a down payment up front of $100,000. Since few people keep $100K in spare change, getting the funds is very, very difficult. Then there a experts in forensics, interviewing, and the like who also do not testify for free. One of the reasons that so many people plead to something in such cases is that they do not have the personal resources to fight the charges.
Surely, this could not have been the criminal justice system the founders of this country envisioned!