Thursday, May 22, 2014

This time, it really is a conspiracy

Since the war on drugs and the war on terror began competing with each other for which one could turn the United States into a police state first, there have been so many dreary stories of government treating people badly, unconstitutionally, and even despicably, that one might think they've reached the point where they can't even top themselves any more.  Well, one would be wrong.

On May 7, 2014, the DEA and the border patrol raided a small business in Alpine, Texas, which they contended was selling illegal drugs.  They also raided an apartment in the same building that belonged to someone unconnected to the business and for which they did not have a warrant.  The business owners were arrested on a number of charges, including both drug charges and resisting the officers during the raid.

The business owners claimed that the police had no valid warrant, that the police violently abused them, and that they were singled out for the raid because of their ethnicity.  The police deny this.  Such allegations are common when the police conduct raids.  Sometimes they are true and sometimes they are not.  Sometimes the police do abuse their authority; sometimes people already engaged in criminal behavior claim abuse to gain a tactical advantage at trial.  So, what we have at the moment is charges on both sides that have not been proven.  The business owners have not been convicted of any crimes, and the police have not been shown to have violated the business owners' rights.  So far, so good.

Enter Judge B. Dwight Goains.  Judge Goains conducted a bond hearing to determine if the business owners would be released pending trial.  He granted them bond, but on one condition:  That they recant their allegations that the police had no warrant, abused them, or singled them out for prosecution.  You can read the order, in all of its unloveliness, here:

Determining whether the police violated their rights is why we have trials, not bond hearings.  And it's difficult to imagine a bond order that violates more provisions of the Bill of Rights:  Free speech, due process, right to bail, right to trial by jury, just for starters.  Even honest judges make mistakes, but this is no mistake.  This is a conspiracy between the judiciary and law enforcement to ensure that these women cannot get a fair trial, and cannot sue the police after the fact.  That it was extorted by forcing them to make the recantation under threat of sitting in jail until they did makes it that much more deplorable.  If I were president, I would seriously consider intervening and ordering the charges dropped.  Judge Goains is unfit for the bench.

Once upon a time I was agnostic on the war on drugs.  While I had some concerns about giving the police too much power and the right of adults to make choices, at the same time I recognized the damage drugs do, especially in the inner city.

But no more.  After watching thirty years of increasing police power, often unchecked, and at the expense of constitutional rights, I have come to the conclusion that living in a free society is incompatible with the war on drugs.  We can have one or the other; we cannot have both.

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