Thursday, December 29, 2005

Fruit of the Poisonous Tree

Not being a lawyer, I defer to those who are to make the point that the warrantless wiretapping by the Bush administration and the NSA may have put in jeopardy any prosecution that the government may bring against terror suspects, real or imagined. From my years of watching Law & Order, I’ve learned of the term “fruit of the poisonous tree;” the dictum that evidence obtained illegally cannot be used at trial, nor can any subsequent discovery from that original illegal evidence, and it can be challenged in cases that have already been resolved with a conviction. As Steve Bates notes:

Mr. Bush’s order has, at one fell swoop, endangered every terrorism case in the U.S. judicial system… every case in progress, and every conviction already obtained.

For a full explanation of this, you must read former prosecutor ReddHedd’s posting at firedoglake.

This is what happens when you play fast and loose with the rules. It comes back to smack you right in the ass. And all of us will be paying the price for it: in court costs, in energy that will now have to be expended on this issue rather than on further needed prosecutions (because manpower only stretches so far), on the possibility that a bad actor will be set free because the President of the United States authorized a segment of our government to cheat the law because to follow it was too much work for him.

[…]

This is what happens when you fail to think things through. This is why we have the rules and laws in the first place. Someone should have explained that to King George and his merry band of cronies.

Consequences are a bitch. And they are about the hit the fan.

No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, if this doesn’t piss you off, there’s something deeply wrong with your perception of how our system works.