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The End of the Rule of Law

I’m not sure what’s more disturbing about this story: the vague report making it unclear for which crime the man was convicted, the argument of the prosecution and determination of the judge that he should register as a sex offender, or the reaction of the idiots leaving comments — particularly comments attacking the defense attorney.

Frankly, I think it’s actually the combination of the three; they are all symptoms of the breakdown of the rule of law, our grossly dysfunctional society, and demonstrative of the fact that there are many more criminals amongst us than anyone cares to admit. Many of them are sitting judges, practicing prosecutors, or are busy leaving inane or ignorant comments on news websites.

Let me address each of the issues I mentioned in order.

First, the crime: I’ve no idea what it actually was, but I know that it isn’t something I would even remotely condone. I love dogs. Concomitantly, I dislike people who would hurt a dog very much.

But I can’t tell from the story what this guy did to the dog, other than that he apparently stuck something — not what some of the commenters apparently think — somewhere into the dog, causing damage. He also apparently tried to strangle the dog.

The dog is now “extraordinarily fearful of men, ‘like many victims of sexual assault,'” according to the woman now taking care of the dog.

As I mentioned, I love dogs. I happen to have a couple of small dogs. I’m protective enough of them that when one — a dog who apparently has an issue with men of which we were unaware at the time — ripped my nose open because I tried to kiss my wife while he was in her lap, I did not take him to be euthanized. A number of people seemed surprised at that, but to me it was a no-brainer: he was a dog who misunderstood what was happening and reacted based on his protective instincts.

I got the dog when I was in law school. A fellow student was living in a trailer and was told he had no choice but to get rid of the dog, or move. He couldn’t afford to move and Tucker (renamed Avi) came into our lives.

Why, like many victims of sexual assault, he appears to be fearful of men, I’ve no idea. But I’m pretty sure, unlike the case with many victims of sexual assault, he was never sexually abused.

In the story reported in the Fresno Bee, I’m not exactly sure why the judge thinks the defendant’s behavior was “inherently sexual in nature,” but I’m pretty sure that if it truly were, there’s a California law against bestiality for which the man could have been convicted.

And it is not a registrable offense.

Which brings us to the prosecutor and the judge. Knowing — or at least being responsible to know — the law, they nevertheless work in tandem (as judges and prosecutors usually do, to the detriment of defendants and, more importantly, the law) to force what appears to be an illegal requirement on this defendant for what is, in essence, an arbitrary reason. It’s arbitrary by definition because the judicial officer can’t just legally dish out any old punishment not authorized by law that he wishes.

And what we have here is an offense for which there appears to be neither a mandatory nor discretionary registration requirement.

There are other crimes codified in California Penal Code (for example section 311.4) mentioning bestiality which are registrable offenses. But they require that the offender somehow caused a minor to engage in bestiality. The registration requirement almost certain devolves from the involvement of the minor, rather than an animal. There’s nothing in the Fresno Bee story to indicate that it applies here.

I can find no case law in California that supports a registration requirement based upon bestiality.

And, again, the defendant does not appear to have been convicted of bestiality, anyway.

So right off the bat here, we have a prosecutor arguing for a punishment not authorized by law, and a judge blindly following along, despite the valid legal argument of the defense attorney to the contrary because — as far as the judge is concerned — the crime is “inherently sexual in nature.” The judge can be forgiven for not understanding the rule of law, however. He is, after all, a judge. These days most judges wouldn’t know the law if it bit them on the ass.

And if it did, they’d probably deem it a registrable offense.

So now we move on to the hoi polloi.

If the judges get it wrong, I suppose I can’t be too concerned about the modern day visitors to the modern Amphitheatrum Flavium whose primary thirst has always favored blood over the law. The level of ignorance that accompanies their attempts to justify their bloodlust, however, always gets to me. For example,

Jesus christ who sticks it in a dog? This dude is clearly a threat to humans. Lock him up for a nice long time

The commenter should be forgiven the difficulty in spotting the difference between dogs and humans. After all, the name of the commenter is “uberkitti” — what the hell is he or she doing defending a dog, anyway?

What I find much more reprehensible than the normal bloodlust for the defendant — after all, that’s old news and, given the allegations, some animosity (no pun intended) is understandable — are the attacks aimed at the attorney. Take this example, from someone who felt so strongly about it, he (or she) had to post it twice:

Where in all of these “rights” is the attorneys right to say “Hell NO, I will not defend this pile of s**t”? Their sworn oath excuse allows them to prostitute themselves without the wrath of society.

As I said in my response to him,

Bad attorneys sometimes do say such things. Then they are no more worthy of being called defense attorneys than many commenters here are worthy of being called human beings. Good attorneys do the job of defending the Constitution, keeping their oaths, and providing the best defense possible under the circumstances.

Personally, I have little patience for defense attorneys who forget their jobs and take the same approach towards the defense of an accused person that the unschooled and ignorant mobs take. I know some defense attorneys find some crimes so reprehensible that they just cannot defend people accused of committing them. I consider that a weakness, a failure, an abdication of the high calling of a defense attorney. I get it, though — as defense attorneys, we sometimes know our clients are guilty — some of us just cannot stomach the person who commits certain crimes and just cannot remember that how we feel about the client is irrelevant to the issue of doing our jobs.

Our system of justice does not depend upon criminal defense attorneys liking their clients. I would be lying if I said that I liked all mine. (Particularly the ones who cheat me out of my earned fees!) But that doesn’t change my duties, my responsibilities, and the requirement of professionalism in the performance of them.

That, I think, is a necessary, if not sufficient, requirement in our system of jurisprudence.

It’s just too bad that, increasingly, judges, prosecutors, and the general public disagree.

For down that road lies the end of the rule of law.

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