“Vindictive and retaliatory” prosecutions: Welcome to the USA!

What happens when you exercise your constitutional right to a trial by jury? Well, if you have sex on a beach in Florida and take the case to trial you might get 15 years in prison and have to register as a sex offender for life. As Jonathan Turley explains, this is just how prosecutors operate these days:

prosecutors now take the view that if they [sic] demand for a plea is ignored, they are relieved on any further duty to be reasonable and just in their indictments and sentencing arguments. I have seen this happen over and over again. It is vindictive and retaliatory against those who want to go to trial. I have had prosecutors tell me that “this is how the game is played” — you defy the state on a plea and they throw the book at you. However, the result is clogging our jails with excessive sentences and maintaining a crippling threat against those who simply want to seek a verdict on their charges.

He’s right, of course. And it’s sad. As one of the commenters on Turley’s page pointed out, the same “crime” in Dubai would only get you 3 months jail and deportation. And this is in a country that still observes parts of Sharia law.

It’s insane that we have laws that would make it possible to imprison someone for 15 years and register for life for having sex on a beach — even in front of children. But it’s equally insane that prosecutors refuse to exercise their discretion to achieve justice. Instead of justice we get ruined lives — not just for the people so perversely punished, but for all of us who have to pay for their incarceration and for the endless bureaucracy and litigation that comes from attempting to enforce sex offender registration requirements. What is the point of all this?

The only hope for these people is that they are before a judge that will have the courage to stand up to this prosecutor and give a sentence more appropriate to the crime. That hope is slim, but I wish them luck.