Mashburn and Cornelison do not believe they've committed a crime, so they would like to exercise their right to the presumption of innocence – a bedrock principle of the English legal tradition now in great peril from American prosecutorial excess. Instead of letting the state bully them into a grubby, shaming deal, the boys would like it to do what justice systems in civilized societies are required to do: prove the crime. It's a gamble: Those 10 charges each command a one-year sentence, plus lifelong sex-offender registration.I can't imagine a dumber prosecution.
District Attorney Berry told reporter Susan Goldsmith of the Oregonian that his department "aggressively" pursues sex crimes. "These cases are devastating to children," he said. "They are life-altering cases."
No, sir. The only one devastating children's lives is you. If you "win," and these "criminals" are convicted, 20, 30 years from now – applying for a job, volunteering for a community program, heading north for a weekend in Vancouver and watching the Customs guard swipe the driver's license through the computer – there'll be a blip, something will come up on the screen, and for the umpteenth time two middle-age men will realize they bear a mark that can never be expunged. Because decades ago they patted their pals on the rear in a middle-school corridor.
A world that requires handcuffs and judges and district attorneys for what took place that Friday in February is not just a failed education system but an entire society that's losing any sense of proportion. Without which, civilized life becomes impossible. So we legalize more and more aspects of life and demand that district attorneys prosecute ever more aggressively what were once routine areas of social interaction.
A society that looses the state to criminalize schoolroom horseplay is guilty not only of punishing children as grown-ups but of the infantilization of the entire citizenry.
Monday, July 30, 2007
Mark Steyn On the Oregon Bottom Smacking Case
Last week, I noted the story of two Oregon seventh graders at risk of being labeled sex offenders for alledgedly smacking their classmates on the bottom. Mark Steyn, with his usual acerbic wit, also takes on the case and concludes: