Saturday, April 14, 2007

R.I.P.: Americans' Ability to Think.

It's official. It's over. It's gone.

We can't think any more, as the Duke lacrosse case demonstrates. And our character (though perhaps not to the level of Europistan) is faltering. It's a deadly combination. Thinking is a moral exercise, in large part ... I think.

I've followed the Duke case, but not as close as many. I followed it closely enough to know that the charges should have been dropped long ago. As a former prosecutor, I take serious the prosecutor's oath not only to seek a conviction, but also justice. That is, a prosecutor is not ethically permitted to try a defendant for a crime just to "check it out". In other words, the prosecutor must first be convinced that he is prosecuting a guilty party, and then that the evidence supports the charge.

We do this because a criminal charge in a free society is a serious thing. It's something separated from politics, or at least it's supposed to be. When criminal charges cease to be taken seriously and are instead viewed as political acts, then we've really got serious problems. And our freedom is in jeopardy.

You all know the details of the Duke case now. D.A. Mike Nifong ran crazy with a disjointed, confused case based on conflicting stories, a constitutionally-improper line-up, and no DNA ... no wait, with DNA that contradicted the accuser's claims. The accuser, by all accounts, was entirely without credibilty and very troubled.

But Nifong apparently ran with this case and filed charges to solidify the black vote in Durham as his Democratic Primary approached. Initially, based upon the first impressions and prejudices of the MSM/Demo/Left/Same Thing set, the case was off and running, with our without evidence.

Thankfully, the wheels eventually came off. Our system still works, in large part, because of two things: 1) We have a large number of checks and balances, such as appellate courts, civil courts, the legislative branch, and even the bar itself; and 2) ultimately, there are still good people around who take pride in their oaths as officers of the court.

I know, I like the lawyer jokes, too. But lawyers ultimately stopped this case.

Still, I think the Nifong matter is an extremely troubling example of the dangerous trend of increasing political prosecutions that must not only be stopped but reversed.

More and more, we have seen the criminal justice system used as a political tool. Libby and Delay are two recent examples that come to mind, but there are many others. Once upon a time, they did the same thing to Kay Bailey Hutchison around these parts. And now, we see the Demos threaten to turn the routine firing of U.S. attorneys into a crime. Perjury traps are not only set, they are sprung, cases are tried, and lives ruined. Political "dirty tricks" are now "crimes".

So, Michael Jackson and O.J. Simpson are free, but Scooter Libby is a criminal? Martha Stewart, whom I am no fan of, is nailed for the vicious act of what? Help me out here. It's the world upside-down.

Have we gotten so morally upright that we have less tolerance for all manner of wrong-doing? Quite the contrary, I think we've degraded ourselves to the point where we can't tell the difference between ill-advised or bad conduct and a crime against society.

But it goes deeper than that. We now think that a finding of "Not Guilty" is a finding of "Virtuousness" No wait, many don't know what "virtuous" means. We think "Not Guilty" means "Good Guy". This is what happens when the clearly-marked lines between criminal and non-criminal conduct are erased and then moved ... and erased again, as needed.

Back to the Duke case, this means that the lacrosse players are now "Good Guys". Being falsely accused and subjected to an unfair media onslaught as they were, they are not only Good Guys, but bona fide Heroes to us now.

To put a cherry on top, they are now even concerned about "the little guy" who may not have the means to fight off a political prosecution. Pass the tissue. Really? I'm sorry, but call me skeptical about these claims which sound a bit scripted to me. Maybe they do feel this way, but these were no choir boys. After all, it was a stripper party we had there. And one of the lads has a conviction in another assault. I am just not getting images of Mom and apple pie with these guys. In fact, they might even be spoiled little punks. Maybe they were then but are not now. We don't know.

It takes some thought, some analysis. It takes more than five minutes. Life is simple of many levels but complicated on many, as well. We see this in the Duke case.

Being "not guilty" means you aren't guilty of this charge or it can't be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. It doesn't make you a hero.

But to the thoughtless generation, it does.

So now ... Political prosecutions are still permitted, the accused Duke lacrosse players are heroes.

But at least Mike Nifong may be on his way to being a Not Good Guy.

Meanwhile, Don Imus is the Worst Human Being to Inhabit the Universe. And Pres. Bush caused it all.

Think about it.