Victims' Rights Laws Being Abused To Hide The Identities Of Cops Involved In Use Of Force Incidents

from the when-it-comes-to-LEO-opacity,-any-law-will-do dept

A law filled with good intentions and vague wording is, more often than not, a law named after the victim of a crime. So-called "Marsy's Laws" are being passed in states that grant crime victims extra rights, often at the expense of the accused's Constitutional rights. As Scott Greenfield explains, "Marsy's Laws" insert crime victims into a process that isn't theirs to be inserted into. Once a crime has been committed, the government takes over and it's between the prosecutor and the accused from that point forward. As harsh as it may sound, crime victims aren't in need of extra rights. Any effort made to "fix" this nonexistent problem only deprives others of their rights.

Prosecutors represent the government, not the victims or their families. The only party with rights in a criminal courtroom is the defendant, both because the Constitution provides it and because the defendant is the only person whose liberty is at stake.

It’s not that there is no way for a victim, or family, to obtain “justice.” They can sue civilly for their loss, in which case they will be a party to the proceeding, will be capable of choosing their own strategy and pursuing it as they deem fit. But the force of the state, the power of the police, the punishment of imprisonment or worse, is not there for the sake of the victims. It’s not theirs to use, and they get no say in the decisions that are ultimately made.

Most of these laws grant crime victims extra privacy. The laws block the release of identifying info about victims under the theory this will head off harassment of victims and their families. This privacy shield contains no exceptions for government employees, so of course it's being abused to protect people whose public service positions wouldn't normally allow them to keep their names out of the news. Scott Shackford has more details at Reason:

What on earth does a victim's rights law have to do with a police officer demanding to conceal his identity from the public? According to the Rapid City Journal, the officer in question shot 21-year-old Kuong Gatlauk following a confrontation during a traffic stop. According to the police report, Gatlauk made statements intending some sort of self-harm and fled from a police vehicle. In a confrontation, he apparently threw a beer can at the trooper and then tackled the trooper and tried to steal the trooper's gun, according to this report. The trooper was able to keep his gun and shot the suspect twice.

Because Gatlauk was subsequent charged with assaulting the trooper, the trooper is claiming the right under Marsy's Law to have his or her name kept confidential, even though this action happened in the course of public police work and much of the records involved are public records. The state's attorney general has agreed.

Considering how easy it is to "assault" an officer during the course of an arrest, this law could be used to hide the identities of officers accused of deploying excessive force or other unconstitutional policing. South Dakota's version of the law doesn't even require criminal charges to be officially filed by prosecutors for these protections to take effect. All it takes is being booked on charges, even if prosecutors decide not to move forward.

All the good intentions in the world won't undo the collateral damage. Police officers -- who already have access to a wealth of extra rights -- now have one more to use to further separate themselves from accountability. And it's all because tragedy tends to blind legislators to the possible negative side effects of feel-good legislation that grants one group special rights at the expense of everyone else.

Filed Under: marsy's laws, police, police identities, use of force, victims rights


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  1. icon
    Madd the Sane (profile), 25 Oct 2018 @ 4:55pm

    Re: So actually you're for excluding police officers.

    Mobs have recently chased Republicans out of restaurants.

    With who is the president, I don't blame them. It'd probably help if they stated what their positions are in regards to some things instead of just "I'm Republican. Anything my party does is right."

    I think the increasing insanity and incivility of leftists is good cause for this application.

    Of a police state? Sorry, but I don't want to be dragged kicking and screaming into the night, only to be never heard of again.

    […]you blithely relate that a person assaulted the police officer.

    On the officer's word. "In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established." Sadly, we can't get the word of Kuong Gatlauk because he's dead.

    Revile that person.

    Can't: We don't know who he is. The law makes it so.

    […]in civil society one MUST sort of obey police.

    What happens when police officers start making illegal demands, such as downloading the "Dallas Buyers Club" for them? If the police ask you to do that, it must be fine, right?

    The key problem of policing is that if a person doesn't obey the mild orders, then what's to stop them from going further?

    So it's okay for a police officer to say "Get on your knees, undo my zipper, and open wide!"? And if you refuse, he can sue you for sexual assault? It's the officer's word against yours, and when shielded by these "Marsy's Laws," you can't string the complaints without violating the law.

    Until the police person is in actual jeopardy?

    Sorry, but they're not even in the top 10 for most dangerous job.

    […]only way to stop the escalation before having to shoot someone is with what you […] shriek is undue violence.

    Lethal force should be the last resort, not the standard. Death is pretty final.

    And police seem to like to escalate things here in the USA, not deescalate.

    […]only want to be doped out of your mind […]civilization just doesn't work if that becomes common.

    I don't know, intoxication due to alcohol is fairly common, and legal, and society hasn't come crashing down.

    Am I in favor of recreational drugs? No, but I think this shows that that point is very weak.

    I find it a great trade-off: a little annoyed at police versus starving in the wilderness.

    Problem is, many people are not just "a little annoyed" at police: they're furious. Usually because an officer killed a family member in cold-blood and all the punishment they got out of it was a couple days of paid vacation.


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