Friday, June 24, 2005

Jimenez v. County of L.A. (Cal. Ct. App. - June 13, 2005)

Good to know that if you're in Los Angeles and charged with a serious crime like rape, and there's conclusive DNA evidence that'll either exonorate you or establish your guilt, the L.A. Sheriff's Department has a policy that it doesn't bother to actually analyze this critical evidence until you've first rotted away in jail for several months. They'll only actually do this work once your trial date is set, which is typically several months after you've been arrested. So if you're too poor to afford bail, you get to experience the joy of incarceration -- even if you're entirely innocent -- for a long, long time. Until the Sheriff's Department feels like getting around to you and doing some work to see if you're actually guilty or not.

This policy is precisely why Jose Jimenez gets to spend a fun-filled five months in jail for a crime he didn't commit. Months that were made even more exciting by the fact that Jimenez was in jail for allegedly raping a 14-year old girl, which undoubtedly made him a huge favorite of his cell- and jailmates, who just love child rapists. Ah, what fun. Sort of like Club Med, but with a lot less liberty and a lot more physical abuse.

Justice Boren also holds here that this policy doesn't deprive anyone of their constitutional rights, including the right to be free from unjust incarceration. So there's no resulting incentive to actually change the policy either. Which is great. It's all cool, right? Everyone should be fine with being incarcerated for a half-year just because the government doesn't feel like conducting definitive tests that would establish your innocence. It's just fine for the government to let you rot in jail because it has a policy of delaying conclusive tests until right before trial. Why bother seeing if a guy is actually guilty until right before his trial starts? It's just an innocent person deprived of nearly all of his liberties locked in an abusive environment. What's the big deal?

Apparently not much, I guess. Or at least it's not a constitutional big deal, according to Justice Boren. I'm sure that the Founders would have been just fine if the English did it to us. And I'm sure the Constitution is cool with depriving innocent people of their liberties in such a fashion.

Oh well. That's the law, anyway. And boy does it make me proud.