I know that racism is still rampant in America, but it’s still sad to see it, hear about it, or read about it. Especially when it concerns police officers, who are supposed to be upholding the law.
The Associated Press reported today that for several years, the Chicago department used beatings, electocution, and other methods to worm confessions out of crime suspect, and that most of the people who received this treatment were black. These actions started out as rumors until prosecutors decided to investigate, and investigate they did.
The found that many of the 148 cases they investigated seemed to be true, but they thought they had pretty solid evidence for three of them, except for one problem. A three year statute of limitations on this type of crime. That is, most of the cases happened more than three years ago, so they cannot be prosecuted.
What is a statute of limitations? You hear it a lot in the news, especially in regards to criminal cases. Connecticut residents might remember a few years in the Michael Skakel case that the defense lawyers tried to use the statute of limitations argument to throw out the case. Well, a statute of limitations is basically the amount of time someone has to prosecute on a criminal case or sue on a civil case. After that, the case would be thrown out before it was started. The justification for this is that over time memories fade and evidence becomes unreliable1. In this case, the statute of limitations was three years.
This ticks me off so much. I understand and agree with the justification for the statute of limitations, but why the hell didn’t prosecutors investigate this years ago? You know, when people first started spreading rumors. In the article, it makes mention of how a former official at the Cook County State Attorney’s office could have investigated but did not. I think this story not only shows that racism is still very much kicking in this country, but also underlines the problem with some police officers. How they think they’re above the law and so can do anything they want, because they think there will be no consequences. The fact is, in this case there be no prosecution. Perhaps it is time for Illinois to review their statute of limitations laws, especially in reference to the police.
As well as completely ignoring civil rights and every law on due process, there is a chance some of the people tortured are innocent. I’m sure we’ve all seen stories and documentaries on how well pressured confessions work…not so much. People will tell you anything you want if you threaten them enough, never mind physical harm. So, now there is the chance that some people are in jail for all the wrong reasons.
If there is a bright side to this dymersion, it’s that more and more departments across the country are video taping interrogations. Thus, it will be almost impossible to threaten or beat a confession out of a suspect. Hopefully, in the future, all departments across the country will have this system. It can only help ensure proper due process.