It seems lately that every morning I read the news, I am finding stories that really grab my attention. This is not always the case.
And while I don't always look for stories with a legal slant, over the past week two stories really got me thinking about the “justice system”.
The first was the story of the alleged (and now confessed) Boston Marathon suspect. Everywhere you look you see coverage of the story itself, which of course is horrific, but what really got me thinking was the “debate” over whether or not the FBI should – at some point – read him his Miranda rights or whether, as some suggested, he should be treated as an “enemy combatant” and not be read his rights or be permitted to speak with an attorney.
Now in my mind this is not a political issue, but one of basic legal rights. I find myself asking why the same people talking about “enemy combatant” status did not make any mention of such status for the shooter in the Colorado movie theater. It's important, I believe, to remember that allowing someone to have an attorney, or not to incriminate themselves, is not allowing them to “get away” with a crime. It is simply affording them one of the most basic rights afforded to all American citizens (good or bad) under the Constitution.
Ultimately, the suspect was read his rights, and now has several attorneys. In the end he will and should be punished to the full extent of the law, and while this case presents an extreme example, the basic rights of U.S. Citizens should not be taken away on a whim, or worse in a politically motivated manner.
I was also interested to see that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) recently received the largest jury verdict in its history when an Iowa jury awarded 32 mentally disabled men $240 million under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as a result of what was described as “decades” of deplorable conditions and physical and verbal abuse by a Texas-based turkey processing plant owner. Although this result is likely to provoke some comments about “excessive verdicts”, the company is now defunct, and it is highly unlikely that the victims will recover anywhere near the amount awarded.
But verdicts like these serve as a reminder that, without the civil justice system, companies like the Turkey plant would be free to take brutal advantage of 32 mentally handicapped people. While I certainly do not feel this way every day, in my mind on this day the system worked.