Sunday, September 02, 2007

Senator Craig’s Innocence

In a way, we should all be appreciative of Senator Larry Craig’s post-conviction claim of innocence. At long last we have a member of the United States Senate who has acknowledged the phenomenon of the false guilty plea, if not the pervasiveness of wrongful conviction itself. Or better yet, by insisting he did "nothing wrong" despite violating a statute, Craig may have finally expressed doubt in the laws that lawmakers have rained down on us. Viewed in their worst light, the allegations made against Craig hardly seem to rise to the level of criminal conduct. Yet Craig’s guilty plea to disorderly conduct charges will prevent him from formally appealing the conviction and will likely haunt him for the rest of his life.

Senator Craig’s proclamations of innocence are ironic given his membership in one of the earth’s most punitive deliberative bodies. During Senator Craig’s tenure in Washington, Congress has:
(1) criminalized hundreds of previously non-criminal acts under federal law;
(2) increased criminal penalties for many federal offenses;
(3) drastically increased collateral consequences of minor criminal convictions, subjecting some convicted misdemeanants to lifetime infringements of civil rights and occupational opportunities;
(4) applied these collateral consequences retroactively;
(5) strategically and systematically limited the appeal rights of convicted persons;
(6) carved away the ancient availability of habeas corpus review of convictions;
(7) created "procedures" to circumvent the plain language of the Sixth Amendment for accused terror suspects;
(8) expanded the authority of police to evade the Fourth Amendment by wiretapping, searching without notification, searching without warrant, and surveilling citizens without cause;
(9) exponentially enlarged the budget of the U.S. Justice Department;
(10) diverted federal tax dollars into local law enforcement agencies to pay for extra officers; and
(11) eliminated all statutory relief for convicted persons.

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