By Scott Tibbs, November 19, 2009
A case before the Supreme Court is testing immunity for prosecutors, as two men wrongfully convicted of a crime they did not commit filed a civil rights lawsuit against the corrupt prosecutors who not only withheld evidence, but actually manufactured evidence against the men. The corrupt prosecutors argue they have immunity from civil lawsuits.
I would go a lot farther than making prosecutors vulnerable to lawsuits. There are prosecutors, such as Joseph Hrvol and David Richter along with the infamous Mike Nifong, who need to be brought up on criminal charges, with the same punishment that would be applied to those wrongfully accused if convicted. For example, a prosecutor who fabricates evidence to gain a fraudulent conviction in a capital murder trial should face the death penalty.
Justice John Roberts expressed concerns about a "chilling effect" on prosecutors if they are subject to civil lawsuits. But is a "chilling effect" not the entire point of deterring crime? I want prosecutors to be afraid, to the point of fearing for their lives. I want them to know that if they intentionally distort or fabricate evidence, or withhold evidence that could prove someone innocent, that they could go to prison or even the electric chair. As Thomas Jefferson said, where the people fear the government, there is tyranny - but when the government fears the people, there is liberty.
I believe we need to be tough on crime and that violent criminals need to face severe punishment. This is why I enthusiastically celebrated the deaths of "Tookie" Williams, Jose Medellin and John Allen Muhammad. But while we are tough on crime, it is absolutely critical that we preserve due process and civil liberties. We must never compromise the protections in our revolutionary system of government that even the worst criminals get a fair trial before a jury of their peers. Government officials who defecate on our Constitution by wantonly violating civil liberties are a serious threat to our way of life and we should view them just as harshly as the criminals they are supposed to protect us from.
I see more evidence all the time to be more afraid of my government than any terrorist or criminal. As I have said before, a government that ignores the rule of law is more dangerous to our liberty than any terrorist or foreign aggressor could hope to be. Furthermore, the abuses of the War on Terror, including expanded government surveillance powers against civilians, would never have been possible without the abuses of the War on Crime laying the foundation for placing "safety" above civil liberties and due process. If we are to preserve America as a nation founded on individual liberty and limited government, this must be rolled back.