Incarceration without Conviction

Here in the United States we have a right to a speedy trial… according to four out of seven judges:

New York State’s highest court has tossed out a murder indictment against a man who sat on Rikers Island for more than six years awaiting trial, ruling the delay was caused by the Manhattan district attorney’s office, which kept him locked up as it struggled to bolster its case against him.

In its split decision on Thursday, the New York Court of Appeals wrote in unusually pointed language that “incarceration should generally follow conviction, not precede it.” The court’s decision, which cited the defendant’s constitutional right to a speedy trial, was issued less than a month after a federal appeals court in New York vacated a marijuana distribution charge against a man from Cattaraugus, N.Y., who spent seven years in jail and never went to trial.

The real takeaway from this story is that this ruling came down to a single judge. Three out of the seven judges apparently thought it was perfectly acceptable to incarceration a man for six years even though he hadn’t been convicted of a crime.

Stories like this are why I refer to the United States as a police state. A man lost six years of his life just so a district attorney could build a valid case against him. Then only four out of seven judges thought that the incarceration was unlawful. Now the district attorney and everybody else involved in keeping that poor bastard in a cage for so long will likely walk away unpunished. At most a civil suit will result in the man receiving some taxpayer money as an inadequate form of apology. Many Americans assume that a country has to be as bad as North Korea to qualify as a police state but all that is really necessary is for government agents involved in enforcing laws to go unpunished when they abuse their power. Once an environment of accountability ceases to exist, government agents are free to punish anybody they want for whatever reason they want.