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Proviso Probe

Monday, August 07, 2006

CIVIL LIBERTIES, theoretical problem outweighs actual civil liberties violation

Chicago Tribune (Maurice Possley) wrote about a federal appeals court overturning a damage verdict in favor of Emiliano Hernandez who was wrongly incarcerated for 15 days.

Emiliano Hernandez was pulled over for a moving violation but incarcerated because Enrique Hernandez has an outstanding warrant, same date of birth and similar physical description.
According to testimony at the trial of Hernandez's lawsuit, his wife came to the jail with documents, including his driver's license, a passport, a permanent resident's card and a Social Security card, to show that he was not Enrique Hernandez. She said deputies told her: "Don't waste our time. Go home."


So the appeals court rules against Hernandez. Part of the ruling sounds reasonable, but part of it seems insane.
In overturning the jury's verdict, Easterbrook wrote that the sheriff's office was responsible for following the rulings of the judiciary and not for conducting its own, independent investigation of Hernandez's claims.

To do otherwise would "create a substantial possibility that by presenting his contention over and over, even a guilty suspect would eventually find a deputy who did not understand the weight of the evidence and let him go," Easterbrook wrote. "That would frustrate the public interest in carrying out the criminal law."

So, a plaintiff can't collect a judgment because at some future date some foolish deputy sheriff in a system without any checks on individual folly might make a mistake that will result in a jailed prisoner going free.

That seems like pretty thin stuff to weigh against the government wrongfully incarcerating an individual based on mistake identity and then refusing to consider evidence they have the wrong guy.

It's been a tough decade for the Bill of Rights.

2 Comments:

  • I hate to make race an issue here: BUT......

    One has to wonder if Mr. Hernandez was a white caucasian male and had been falsely arrested if the court's blase attitude would be the same.

    By Blogger Provisoguru, at 1:44 PM, August 07, 2006  

  • If Hernandez had been "Whiter", more politically connected or richer, I expect the sheriff's depart and the state's attorney would have put more effort into checking his claims of false identity.

    By Blogger Carl Nyberg, at 8:49 PM, August 07, 2006  

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