Tuesday, September 27, 2005

"Crime Without Punishment"

These are the responses to my September 27 article, "Crime Without Punishment: How Law Differs From Reality." Thanks to all, please continue to provide us with your feedback.


  1. Epignathus5:51 PM

    My father, a Milliner, walked in to the CPW entrance 3 minutes later, as he did every weekday night around six, and saw the excitement. Costello was a sometimes card playing companion of his, and by my father's lights, a regular guy. My dad also favoured the Telegram, delivered each evening (I think) to our door in the same line of apartments housing the prime minister.

    That paper was to print the story of my father's being the sole cause of the admission of Little Augie to the emergency room, when the latter attempted to organize my father's factories with a lead pipe, which pipe my father used, instead, to re-arrange Little Augies' coif.

    I lived in the Majestic for the first 23 tears of my life.

    I now live, post-divorce, just a block West, in an apartment one-tenth the size of my Father's. The afternoon light out my window here, is the same as it was in my bedroom at the Majestic and, in that light only, it is still the fifties. Then--I knew it was olden times to be looked back upon when the Millenium turned. Today, looking back, in that fifties light, is the only time I feel remotely (if speciously) safe and secure, guarded by the twin towers of the Majestic, and the ghosts of my father and, perhaps, the prime minister,my young self then emboldened by what must certainly will have been the Zenith of the American Empire, I an only child and apparent prince of the Park.

  2. sauce6:04 PM

    Two things still persist to this day. The ink of the Post still comes off on your fingers and there are still streetwalkers on Park Avenue South in the high twenties.

  3. Are you suggesting police officers should have the right to arrest persons, who can then be convicted, solely on the basis that they dress as we believe prostitutes dress and are standing on street corners where officers have observed prostitutes before? Considering how sexually suggestive many young women dress (so I have been told not that at my age I am observant of such exposure) under your prescription many “respectable” women might be arrested for prostitution. Yes our system is biased against the State. That’s what makes it so wonderful.

  4. More in the nature of describing the symptoms as opposed to suggesting solutions --the three part series in the Daily News ending today -- how the mob not only adds to the cost of construction and repair but uses substandard materials --and drags out the time.

  5. Consider that I have had generally good experiences with police and
    criminal lawyers and judges (as a juror), but still would tend to favor stricter limits on government enforcement, giving all benefit of the doubt to the accused or suspected. Why? Because, like most people, most of my interactions with government happen not in the criminal realm but in the regulatory realm. I will never forget, for instance, a day when a couple men in plain clothes came into my mother's restaurant during working hours
    and ordered her to assemble her non-English speaking workers in the
    kitchen and asked for them to produce IDs or other papers. When a few of them could not, they threatened my mother with fines (which I am convinced they eventually assessed because of her vocal outrage) and they threatened
    the undocumented workers with prison (I don't know what eventually happened to them). My mother could, of course, have ordered these thugs out of her place since they had produced no warrants, but she had learned through an earlier lesson that crossing the wrong bureaucrat could get her license to operate suspended at the most inconvenient times. Can you imagine the type of person who derives a sense of purpose from barging into a service business during business hours and threatening poor, frightened people? Those are the kind who, by necessity, work inenforcement agencies. It's hard to love them. One gets the clear impression that such people use whatever creativity they can muster to push right up to the edge of, or get around, whatever constraints the law places on their benavior, laws with which they are intimately familiar
    and, in many cases, have helped to craft. All it takes is one or two such encounters, or stories of them, to create a powerful bias against state authority of any type. The enforcement of stupid laws undermines respect for all law. I am convinced that laws that reward my neighbor for peeking through my window to see if I am engaged in unauthorized renovations of my own home (for instance) make it difficult for people to trust the wisdom of government or its agents. And if we had to have it one way or the other, many of us, especially those from outside of NYC, would rather risk a few more criminals going free than to have to live and work under the seemingly endless and arbitrary rules of big brother.

  6. Never tool criminal law, but what about 'probable cause'? I wonder if police inaction is not due more often to laziness rather than to legal restrictions. And the converse, where police abuse what discretion they might have?

    I can give you good examples of each. For the first, the police refuse to ticket workers cars parked at Frank Campbell's in the reserved for funerals area (which they later move to spots as other spaces vacate on the street); for the second, being arrested because I had an out of state license with a NY address on it and the police thought I was trying to circumvent having lost a NY license. I can give you others, as I am sure can many other people.

    The issue, it seems to me is education of the enforcers of the law, or lack therefof, in matters of judgement and discretion.

  7. Another great article. As we all get older (and accumulate personal history), it becmes apparent that the burdens we bear because of dumb laws are temporarily corrected during mass calamities or disasters. In those cases, emergency actions are taken by workers on the scene, irrespective of laws or procedures. The dumb laws, or course, are not subsequently addressed; the finger pointing takes precedence. I appreciated your reference to prostitution laws. I was in that line of work (from the enforcement side) during the 80's. Your comments are on target.

  8. "Today, in many cases, pro bono means anti-government. "

    That is not a coincidence.

    Incidentally, do you think it's OK to profile backpack-carrying
    Muslim-looking young men for stops and searches? I'm not sure it's
    not. It's not arbitrary discrimination. It's more than rational; you can easily say it serves a compelling state interest.

  9. Good piece on our contemporary culture on crime and the police and the
    > criminal bar. As you know,
    > I made my living trying murder cases, so I have observed a thing or two
    > apropos.
    > 1. People get the system they deserve in this city. They put up with
    > drivers and bicycles (often
    > police officers) violating the law, and officers who fail to enforce it.
    > juries acquit clearly guilty
    > individuals because "her mother in the front row was crying." (She wasn't
    > even the mother.)
    > 2. I want to cry when people say "rich people get off because they get the
    > best lawyers." The
    > best lawyers I've observed worked for Legal Aid, and you know who they
    > represent. (Of course,
    > they do a poor job of screening, so I've seen well-heeled defendants wind
    > with legal aid; seems
    > they know something about "best lawyers."
    > 3. In my thousands of court appearances, it is always the same cops who
    > in with the collars.
    > Conclusion: 90% of police officers just collect their checks and pensions.
    > (An obscure criminal law-
    > yer will sometimes position himself by a corner with a nearby officer or
    > and literally count the
    > instances of violations of law that go unchallanged.)
    > 4. The Batson Supreme Court Decision. I can't go into it here, but it
    > causes travesties like the
    > Simpson verdict. BTW, the Constitution says "impartial jury," and not
    > of peers." A lot of
    > judges don't understand this, even on our highest court.

  10. My father served as a Corrections Officer for 25 years, and for more than a decade was "in charge" of the Black Muslims. As a youngster, I'd "go to work with dad" when Riker's Island became open to the public. I'd sit and talk with convicts who were artists and writers, and some who had become lawyers. Once, I asked Dad what a particular prisoner had done, in my juvenile attempt to reconcile his giftedness with his incarceration. My father replied, "Joseph, I never ask. If I knew, I couldn't treat them with respect." He then rejoined, "Joseph, there are five kinds of justice: justice for rich, justice for poor, justice for white, justice for black ... and no justice at all. We never know what kind of justice these convicts received."

    I try to keep this in mind when I read about trials and indictments, about Gotti and Delay, etc.

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