January 1, 2011

Abuse of Prosecutorial Discretion and
the Presumption of Innocence

Abuses of government authority, like the prosecutorial abuse unleashed against Siobhan Reynolds and her Pain Relief Network, the Smithwick case, etc etc etc etc, have got me to thinking.

It's accepted that if an accused person cannot afford a lawyer, he will be assigned a public defender. Given the enormous disparity between the resources of government prosecutors, especially at the federal level, and most individuals, maybe that needs to be taken a step further.

For brainstorming purposes: Maybe beyond a certain percentage of an individual's assets and income, their defense costs should be compensated as a fraction of what the government spends on the prosecution, with such compensation coming out of the prosecutor's budget. Ditto for the costs of complying with a subpoena. Ditto for jury duty; as an alternative, jurors should be offered a tax credit at their ongoing income level.

Prosecutors wwould scream that this will make their job much harder--but making their job harder is the whole point if they've acquired too much power and are abusing it. No doubt some guilty people would walk free--but our system is supposed to be predicated on the presumption of innocence.

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