At least so it would seem from their editorial Friday complaining about the parole granted to Shuaib Raheem by a majority of a three-member panel of the State Parole Board. Raheem had been imprisoned since 1973 for kidnapping and the murder of a police officer following a botched robbery and hostage standoff. Says the headline of the editorial: “No parole for cop killers.”
Now of course the Daily News is entitled to its opinion, but their opinion drifts into law-drafting, of a sort:
Belatedly, [Parole Board members] Grant and Loomis agreed to reconvene to hear about such matters. They will then have the chance to remedy a grievous lapse in judgment and begin abiding by a simple principle: No parole for cop killers.
Now whose simple principle is this? Raheem was duly convicted of his egregious crimes by a jury of his peers, and given a sentence that happened to include the possibility of parole. Now the Daily News editorial concedes this fact, but with a telling disclaimer:
The four were sentenced to 25 to life for kidnapping and 25 to life for murder, the terms to run concurrently. Today, they would have gotten a proper sentence – life without parole.
The latter sentence of the paragraph is most certainly not gratuitous — it flows from the preceding sentence and condemns it as lenient by today’s legal standards. So the Daily News appears to take ownership of its titular principle. The Daily News also, in this one harrumph toward the original 25 to life sentence imposed upon Raheem, shows its contempt for the rule of law and the United States Constitution.
Point one in its contempt for the rule of law is that it dismisses the original sentence as inadequate and therefore fit to be ignored, even though it was properly imposed at the time.
Point two is their implication that an indeterminate sentence by rights should be indeterminate in name only, if the circumstances warrant it — making a fundamental concept in sentencing law trivial.
Point three is that the warrant for their titular principle is a sense of collective outrage (which the Daily News itself is doing everything in its power to stoke), which is consistent with mob rule, not the rule of law.
Point four is that they have so little regard for the process of trial by jury that they baldly state, as if it were certain, what the verdict would have been had the case been tried today. There have been courts where outcomes were known in advance of trial. We’ve named them after a common Australian marsupial.
Finally, they state, as a principle of law, that in the case of certain crimes, the only thing a parole board should consider is the original crime itself. By law, however, the Parole Board must consider a number of factors when deciding whether to grant parole to an inmate, including not only the applicant’s crime, but his institutional record and prior criminal record.
In fact, there is a case currently being heard that the Pataki administration’s Parole Board did indeed ignore the law and not consider factors other than the original crime. That case was in negotiations with the Spitzer administration when, thanks to outbursts such as a prior editorial by the Daily News among other things, the Spitzer administration withdrew from negotiations and the case is going forward in court.
New York’s citizens, as we have seen recently, can be prone to being manipulated into collective outrage.
As to the Daily News’ contempt for the United States Constitution: ex post facto laws are prohibited in federal law by Article I, section 9 of the U.S. Constitution and in state law by section 10. The locus for defining what ex post facto laws mean is Calder v. Bull (3 US 386 ), in which Justice Chase established four categories of unconstitutional ex post facto laws. Here’s number three:
Every law that changes the punishment, and inflicts a greater punishment, than the law annexed to the crime, when committed.
Hey, Daily News. Sorry about the Constitution and all that, but there it is. Maybe you’ve heard of it? Maybe you care about it? Or maybe you’re pretty sure your readers never heard of Calder v. Bull, ex post facto, or the like, so you can have a free pass to whup it up, mislead everyone you can, get a lot of attention, sell papers, and screw the law of the land.
But some of us have learned the power of the Google. We find rabble rousing with such extreme contempt for the rule of law and the Constitution disgusting. Why, such rabble rousing could lead to, well —
invading sovereign countries for no good reason,
wiretapping people at will,
kidnapping people and holding them without charge indefinitely,