Friday, June 24, 2011

Forced Speech

From a recent article on Conrad Black, about whose case I know very little:
Despite the nullified counts, prosecutors are asking St. Eve to hand the burly, silvery-haired Black the same 6 1/2 -year sentence she originally meted out in 2007, meaning he would have to spend about 4 1/2  more years in prison.

“He fails to acknowledge his central role in destroying Hollinger International through greed and lies, instead blaming the government and others for what he describes as an unjust persecution,” prosecutors said in a recent filing.

Am I the only one who finds outrageous the idea of punishing someone for insisting that he is innocent after a court has concluded that he is guilty?

"Ve Haf ways of making you confess."

19 Comments:

At 10:30 AM, June 24, 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You ever seen a film called "Double Jeopardy"? This woman is framed for murdering her husband, and at her parole hearing all her prison-friends are like "remember, admit you did it, admit you were wrong, show remorse." she does and she gets out of prison. People in general do not like to be informed of the fact that they are wrong. This dislike in enhanced in authority figures. Phony remorse is the name of the game. I'm surprised Mr. Black's lawyers didn't coach him on how to act.

 
At 3:17 PM, June 24, 2011, Blogger Phil Birnbaum said...

What about insisting that the law under which you were convicted is unjust?

What about insisting that the law under which you were convicted is unjust, and you would commit the crime again if freed?

What about insisting that the law under which you were convicted is unjust, while claiming that you wouldn't commit the crime again, if the judge and prosecutor don't believe that you wouldn't do the crime again since you believe the law is unjust?

 
At 4:02 PM, June 24, 2011, Anonymous Patrick R. Sullivan said...

The Conrad Black case was far more bizarre than just his proclaiming his innocence. Black served Hollinger's stockholders well--he made millions for them--it fell to court appointed overseers to destroy Hollinger.

What Black was found guilty of was taking payment for agreeing to non-compete clauses in the sale of Hollingers. The prosecution arguing that that was money owed to stockholders, not to him. Though no one would have paid a cent to stockholders for their signing such an agreement. Truly weird

 
At 4:13 PM, June 24, 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it outrageous to consider remorse in sentencing in general? Happens every day.

This reminds me of the quote about the only way to get a law changed is to enforce it evenly.

 
At 7:50 PM, June 24, 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A lawyer is saying crazy stuff. Wow, I'd never...

 
At 8:40 AM, June 25, 2011, Blogger Æternitatis said...

I agree that it is (1) "outrageous [to] punish[] someone for insisting that he is innocent after a court has concluded that he is guilty."

I also think that (2) it is perfectly decent and just to somewhat reduce a person's sentence if they confess and appear to express genuine remorse for their deeds.

Dear Prof. Friedman, do you disagree with (2)? Or can you offer a way out of what would be our shared cognitive dissonance? It has genuinely troubled me for as long as I've been familiar with the criminal justice system and I see no clear, easy way out.

 
At 8:48 AM, June 25, 2011, Anonymous Ricardo Cruz said...

Æternitatis, what's the difference between these two laws:
* 5 years in jail for crime X. 1 year in jail if you show remorse.
* 1 year in jail for crime X. 4 extra years in jail if you do not show remorse.

You'd favour the first law, but not the second?!

Personally, I think justice should be equally and blindly enforced. Many people say they favour that. But not many people actually do.

 
At 8:51 AM, June 25, 2011, Blogger David Friedman said...

Aeternitas raises an interesting question. In a world with reliable mind reading, I think I agree with his second point--if nothing else, the repentant criminal is somewhat less likely to reoffend, and one function of imprisonment is incapacitation.

But in the world as it exists, I think it is a very dangerous policy.

At a tangent ... . I teach a seminar on legal systems very different from ours. One of the ones I've covered is the Cheyenne Indians; there's a pretty good old book (The Cheyenne Way) trying to reconstruct how their society worked before they were forced onto the reservation.

They carried the "once you recognize your guilt you don't need to be punished" approach strikingly far. There's one incident where a couple of young men are "breaking the law" by hunting buffalo before the mass hunt has been started. They are caught, the relevant enforcers shoot their horses, smash their guns, tear up their blankets. The "boys" make no attempt to resist, act as if they realize they are in the wrong.

At which point one of the enforcers points out that there are now two young men out on the prairie with no horses, guns, or blankets. So someone offers to give them one of his spare horses. Another a blanket. By the time it's over pretty much everything that was destroyed has been replaced--and everyone seems to regard the outcome as satisfactory.

At the other extreme, kill another Cheyenne for pretty much any reason however defensible, and you are subject to a permanent magical pollution, and exile for at least five or ten years. For the rest of your life, even if they let you back in, nobody else will ever share your pipe or eat from your bowl.

Fun stuff. Eventually I hope to do a book based on the seminar.

 
At 9:15 AM, June 25, 2011, Anonymous Rex Little said...

What the first commenter said about phony remorse. Another, somewhat older, movie where the same thing happens is "An Innocent Man." (Libertarians will particularly enjoy this one, as the bad guys are drug enforcement cops.)

 
At 9:17 AM, June 25, 2011, Blogger Æternitatis said...

@Richard Cruz

You misunderstand. I agree completely with you that (1) and (2) are equivalent and being in against (1) and for (2) is intellectually inconsistent.

The problem--to which I confessed not having an answer--is how to resolve this inconsistency.

 
At 12:18 PM, June 25, 2011, Blogger jimbino said...

Even worse is the situation of prisoners where early parole or other privileges are made contingent upon attending sensitivity training or other rehabilitation classes. There must be many folks, especially convicted sex offenders, who are incarcerated though totally innocent. They will serve longer sentences under worse conditions than those who admit to the crime and agree to "rehabilitation."

 
At 9:47 AM, June 26, 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

More evidence that maintaining your innocence is a bad idea after conviction:

http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/h0jr0/my_mother_sodomized_my_infant_sister_and_then/c1ro6iw

In the link above, a guy actually makes an "Alford Plea" which means the guy pleads guilty, but let's the court know that he maintains his innocence and is pleading guilty because he doesn't like his chances at trial.

 
At 1:27 PM, June 26, 2011, Blogger VangelV said...

The government had no real case and he was found innocent of most of the main charges but was convicted of obstruction. How the hell you can obstruct justice when you are found innocent of the charges against you is something that makes no sense.

 
At 2:03 PM, June 26, 2011, Blogger Æternitatis said...

@VangelV

While I'm not unsympathetic to Conrad Black's defense, that is not quite a correct statement of facts or the law.

First, at least one of Black's fraud convictions was upheld, even after the Supreme Court threw out many of them.

Second, lying or destroying evidence in a criminal investigation can be a criminal offense, even if turns out that the investigated conduct was not criminal. For example, Martha Stewart was convicted for lying to the FBI and falsifying records to cover up stock trades that she--erroneously, as it later turned out--were illegal insider trading.

As for the ultimate justice of deliberately obstructing the investigation of what ultimately turns out to be a non-crime, I find the argument sufficiently balanced that I wouldn't express an opinion either way.

 
At 4:23 PM, June 26, 2011, Blogger VangelV said...

Second, lying or destroying evidence in a criminal investigation can be a criminal offense, even if turns out that the investigated conduct was not criminal. For example, Martha Stewart was convicted for lying to the FBI and falsifying records to cover up stock trades that she--erroneously, as it later turned out--were illegal insider trading.

Martha Stewart was convicted for lying about something that was not a crime. But FBI agents, police, and politicians lie all the time and are not prosecuted. The law is an ass and needs to be put down. A free country would not give judges and police such arbitrary powers to suppress individuals. As my twelve-year old has found by reading all those dystopian books, in most cases the enemy of the people is not the mob but the professional criminal class that makes the laws, and the judges that support those laws. Needless to say his speech on the subject did not go over as well with the teachers as with some of the students.

 
At 1:34 PM, June 27, 2011, Blogger $9,000,000,000 Write Off said...

Black was convicted for diverting M&A proceeds to himself in the form of personal-noncompetes and hoodwinking the board into approving such diversions.

The DOJ included "honest services fraud" in the indictment (with a jumble of other crimes), but that was overturned by the S.Ct., who remanded for a resentencing based only on the other convictions.

So I think the comments arose in just another (re)sentencing hearing where remorse does have bearing.

 
At 7:24 PM, June 27, 2011, Blogger VangelV said...

Black was convicted for diverting M&A proceeds to himself in the form of personal-noncompetes and hoodwinking the board into approving such diversions.

The agreements were disclosed and known to investors. (Which is why I did not like Hollinger.) That said, Black was the primary reason why value was being added so some, like my accountant, have argued that he got paid what he should have been paid.

The DOJ included "honest services fraud" in the indictment (with a jumble of other crimes), but that was overturned by the S.Ct., who remanded for a resentencing based only on the other convictions.

It was not the government's business. If investors thought that Black was overpaid they could have gone after him in civil courts. The charges certainly had no merit and would have been dismissed in Canada or the UK, where the rule of law actually matters more than it does in the US, where prosecutors and judges are more interested in politics and power.

So I think the comments arose in just another (re)sentencing hearing where remorse does have bearing.

Nonsense. What you have is an idiot judge making an arbitrary ruling. As I wrote above, the law is an ass and needs to be put down. If you guys want to understand why the US economy is failing look no further than the US legal and political system.

 
At 11:30 AM, June 28, 2011, Blogger $9,000,000,000 Write Off said...

@VangelV ...

Why so grumpy? I posted in the indicative, you in the subjunctive, imperative and and churlish moods. Its not even a conversation.

 
At 1:17 PM, June 28, 2011, Blogger VangelV said...

Why so grumpy? I posted in the indicative, you in the subjunctive, imperative and and churlish moods. Its not even a conversation.

I think that what matters are the facts and the logic. The government and the legal system are showing itself to be an enemy of individual liberty. End of story.

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home