[Update, Thursday, Nov. 4,10:50 AM]: My apologies for not posting in the past few days. I have been busy with my day job, and I owe some work to attorneys who patiently are waiting and, so far, have been nice about it.
Part II is coming, as well as some other commentary. [End Update]
One of the subjects to which I return time and again is accountability, the holding to account of wrongdoers who engage in criminal or near-criminal activity while supposedly acting under the color or law. For example, during the Tonya Craft trial, prosecutors Chris Arnt and Len Gregor knowingly suborned perjured testimony, then conspired with "judge" Brian Outhouse to make sure that the jury never saw documented proof that the witnesses were lying.
We saw the prosecutors and Det. Tim Deal work together to fabricate a document that did not exist when the trial began that purported to show that Sandra Lamb's daughter had "disclosed" the infamous "hand rape" to Suzi Thorne. Perjury is a felony. Subornation of perjury is a felony. Fabricating documents during a trial is a felony. Witnesses saw all of these things occurring during Tonya's trial, yet the people who committed these crimes, Arnt, Gregor, Thorne, Sandra Lamb, Joal and Sarah Henke, Deal, and Sherry Wilson will not have to face one second of legal scrutiny for what they did.
Likewise, we have seen the same dishonest nonsense in the Jacobson case in which lie after lie has been told, and the police and prosecutors have covered up lies and tried to push lies as the truth. Yet, the perpetrators know that they are safe.
Why? Why the lack of accountability? The answers are institutional in nature. I'd like to say that it is because men like Gregor and Arnt are fundamentally dishonest, and maybe they are. What I know of these people, both are narcissistic bullies, both are competitive, and neither has much of a moral compass.
Yet, that is not enough, although time and again we find that people in authority who do these things tend to be amoral at best and immoral at worst. Now, there are two ways to approach the institutional nature of this issue.
The first would be to say that most people who enter certain institutional settings, like police departments or prosecutors' offices in which they are given immense amounts of authority, do so with good intentions. They "want to make a difference" or want to "do good."
However, the daily realities of the job soon make them jaded. Cops deal with human refuse and people who really do horrible things to others, and prosecutors have to prosecute these folks. And it really is true that the vast majority of people who are arrested and prosecuted are guilty. Yes, guilty.
Unfortunately, the nature of their jobs also makes them jaded, and their view of the world becomes: "I am a hammer, and everyone else is a nail," or "If you are not guilty of this, you certainly are guilty of something else for which you were not caught, so don't tell me you are innocent." Thus, beaten down by the sins of others, these cops and prosecutors move to the lowest level and protect themselves by assuming the worst in everyone else.
For the cop, life becomes a war of occupation. American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan face the terrible reality that as occupiers (for both are wars of occupation), they cannot tell the difference between friend and foe, which also was the case in Vietnam. Thus, everyone has to be treated as the enemy, lest one let down one's guard and the child to whom you are giving candy detonates a bomb that blows up you and your comrades. To make matters worse, a number of young men (and women) who come back from service in Iraq or Afghanistan are finding that police departments will hire them, so they bring the siege mentality with them on the job, going from one war of occupation to another.
There is truth to that example, and I have spoken to plenty of cops and prosecutors who have reached that point. I'm not sure that I would not be right there with them if I were in that same position, and I am very sympathetic to such a point of view. Furthermore, when I read about cases like that in Catoosa County concerning Greg Austin, my first inclination is to agree with the police reports and testimony, even though everything in my brain screams, "Innocent until proven guilty." In other words, I am not automatically inclined to dismiss everything cops and prosecutors say as a lie (even though I often am accused of that very thing).
There is a second institutional viewpoint, and that is that the nature of the work and the lack of accountability will attract people of lower character who self-select into such lines of work. The pay for prosecutors is relatively low compared to what attorneys make in private practice. Some people also go into prosecutorial work in order to get experience in the system before going into private defense work.
Nonetheless, private practice demands that attorneys be accountable to their clients, who can turn them into the state bar or who can tell others, while prosecutors do not have a difficult time piling on charges and drawing guilty pleas from the accused, which is how the vast majority of criminal cases are concluded. Furthermore, there is little or no accountability for prosecutors, including those who lie and are abusive. State bars won't touch them, unless the circumstances are so high-profile that they have to do something or run for cover.
Likewise, police departments are great places for people who enjoy bullying others and who want to "kick ass." The power one has not only to brutalize others but to be able to lie with impunity on a witness stand has to appeal to certain people who might enjoy having such a station in life.
Yet, so far, I have given some institutional reasons why certain kinds of people might self-select into the positions of police officer and prosecutor. The large issue is why there is little accountability for people who are employed in such positions. My next post will give my own reasons for why this is the case.