Brain and Body
David Motari Update

The Dark Side of "Victim's Rights"

There is a dark side to "victim's rights," that is, formal and informal procedures that give the prosecutorial power to the complaining witness in a criminal case.  What is that dark side?

Prosecutions are supposed to be about public justice.  Prosecutors will tell juries: "We do not represent clients.  We represent you, the people."  In theory, that is how it should be.  Yet prosecutors in today's age are often nothing more than plaintiff's lawyers.

Norman Pattis has a client who is charged with behaving badly during a divorce.  I'm not as sympathetic towards his client as he is, but let's put that aside.  Either his client committed crimes and should be prosecuted to protect the public, or she shouldn't.  It's really that simple. 

But the complaining witness holds the cards.  He will not drop charges unless she pays him money.  Yes, this is extortion.  No, the prosecutor and judge will do nothing about that.

How then can a prosecutor or judge be claiming to act in the public's interest?  They would dismiss the charges if the husband (after being paid off by the defendant) consented to it.  But the wife won't pay him off.  And thus she languishes in court. 

This is a common occurrence, by the way.  In a high profile case, a complaining witness, Nestor Estrada, claimed that Russell Crowe threw a phone at his head.  Felony charges were filed.  If Crowe had been convicted of a crime, he would have been deported. 

Prosecutors went forward with the case.  They dismissed the case only after the complaining witness said  (after being paid a lot of money) he did not want the case to proceed to trial.

How is this public justice?  As I wrote then:

If Crowe did the crime, then he should do the time.  If the prosecutor believes that the hotel worker is using the criminal system to extort money from Crowe, then the prosecutor should drop the charges.  But if the story is true, then the prosecutor's and Estrada's actions are truly unconscionable, though common.

Whenever someone tells you about "victim's rights," remember, there is most assuredly a dark side. So-called victim's rights allow private vendettas overcome  public justice.