Tuesday, July 8, 2014

We should have a contest

Whenever I think that some government employee has behaved so badly that no other government employee could possibly top them, another government employee comes along to prove me wrong.  Maybe we should have a contest for the most over-the-top vile behavior by an agent of the state.

Curtis Scherr is a Chicago police officer.  His 7-year-old granddaughter was dying of a brain tumor.  There was some reason to think that medical marijuana might be therapeutic, at least to the point of easing her pain.  So her mother, Scherr's daughter-in-law, began growing marijuana, from which she extracted cannabis oil, which did seem to alleviate some of the symptoms.

Scherr helped.  He helped her obtain the high-intensity lightbulbs necessary for growing pot indoors, and coached her on how to avoid detection by the police.  He helped tend the plants.  Unfortunately, Liza died.

A dispute broke out between Scherr and his daughter-in-law.  Scherr was Catholic; his daughter in law was Protestant, and Scherr was upset that it would not be a Catholic service.  He was also upset that his daughter in law omitted some relatives from the obituary, and even more upset that he was not permitted to take Liza's ashes from the funeral home.

Now, in most families, these disputes would resolve themselves in one of two ways.  Either people would work through them, or they would go their separate ways.  But Scherr was a police officer, and nobody, dammit, was going to tell him no.  So, he retaliated.

Officer Scherr, who himself had helped grow the marijuana, swore out a search warrant for his daughter in law's residence, claiming that he had seen 50 marijuana plants inside.  The judge issued a search warrant and, four days after the funeral, a dozen DEA agents descended on the house in search of drugs.  They didn't find any; since Liza's mother is neither a drug dealer nor a drug user, she discarded the marijuana plants when Liza died.  They did, however, cause intense grief and emotional upset to a bereaved mother who had buried her child only four days earlier.  No charges were filed.

Liza's mother sued Scherr.  The trial court dismissed the lawsuit, and earlier this week the US Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal.  You can read the decision here:  http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=2670780480031368207  In a nutshell, under federal law, a police officer cannot be sued for having an ill motive so long as there really was probable cause to get a search warrant.  As a matter of law, I think that's right.  I don't have to like it.  She still has some state-court remedies she may pursue.  I wish her luck.

If I were the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, I would give her immunity from prosecution.  I would then get her to tell a grand jury that he helped with the grow operation, and I would then indict him on drug charges.  Even though I'm opposed to the war on drugs and normally disfavor prosecuting people for drugs, since he's the one who brought in the criminal justice system in the first place, let him answer for his role in the illegal activity.  And if I were the sentencing judge, I'd give him ten years.

Anyone who acts that despicably should share in the misery.

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