Saturday, August 11, 2007

Terrorist Suspects may go Free

In South Carolina, Ahmed Abda Sherf Mohamed, 24, and Yousef Samir Megahed, 21, two students of at the University of South Florida were arrested near the Naval Weapons Station which holds terrorist prisoners. They were stopped for speeding and police became suspicious when they nervously closed a laptop they had been using and could not explain why they were in the area. Pipe bombs were found in their car. Their attorney petitioned the court to exclude all evidence discovered because they were illegally profiled.
Now the judge will schedule a hearing and the prosecutor will have to prove (beyond a reasonable doubt) that the men were not arrested because they looked like middle-eastern Muslims. If the judge feels that they were profiled, then this case will be thrown out because all evidence obtained due to the “illegal” stop will become inadmissible. This is ridiculous and not just because they are terrorist suspects. I am getting quite upset reading about cases being tossed out of court because the evidence was obtained illegally. I know why this happens. This happens because our constitutional rights require protection from any overzealous, totalitarian law enforcement. No one wants a police state like Nazi Germany or Stalin’s Russia. However I don’t want to see criminals and terrorists go free because, in some cases, an “I” was not dotted or a “T” was not crossed. Even in the cases were the abuse was blatant, I cannot stomach murderers and thieves being set free because evidence was obtained illegally.
So I have a solution. Do not change the rules defining the legality of the method employed to obtain the evidence, but change the resulting outcome. Don’t remove the murder weapon from a case because the search warrant that was used to obtain it was based upon an illegal traffic stop. Rather allow the evidence to stand, but discipline the person(s) responsible for the creating the illegal condition. That discipline can be anything from personnel file condemnation letters to felony charges. For example:
- If the search warrant was typed improperly or dated incorrectly or any such stupid mistake, fine or admonish the clerk responsible for the error, but allow the evidence.
- If a search warrant was obtained because a law enforcement officer conducted an illegal search, then that officer should be disciplined; fined, suspended or fired, but the evidence stands.
- If the search warrant was obtained because a law enforcement official lied, then that official should be charged with obstructing justice, but the evidence is allowed.
- If no search warrant is obtained, then the case should be reviewed by the district attorney’s office and the law enforcement officer(s) should be charged with the appropriate crime, up to and including burglary of an inhabited dwelling, but the evidence remains.
The bottom line is if someone is breaking to law in order to make arrests, then they should be punished. Why punish Society by releasing dangerous predators because the evidence against them was obtained illegally? I do not mind losing evidence in minor, illegal activities, but some cases being dismissed are significant, horrendous felonies. Why can’t common sense be applied to the justice system? Justice may be blind, but she can’t deaf and dumb too!

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