Friday, June 20, 2008

The 'Perp Walk' Debate: Prejudicial or Legit?

The WSJ Law Blog is discussing one of my pet peeves - the perp walk - when prosecutors take an innocent person, in handcuffs, and parade him or her before the press for a photo op. It is a disgusting practice, undermines a basic tenant of our constitution, and is simply low class.

They just did it to the two Bear Stearns money managers who were indicted yesterday. There is simply no valid reason for this practice, except to humiliate the victim. Defendants surrender themselves with their attorney all of the time, without fanfare. Parading the defendant in handcuffs, in public, when he hasn't even been arraigned, nevermind convicted, is remincent of Medieval public stocks as punishment. But even in those times, the humiliation was for the guilty, not the arrested.

Giuliani used "perp walks" all the time. I was involved in one case many years ago when he was the United States Attorney in the SDNY. The feds had arrested 6 or 7 stockbrokers, and marched them from the federal building in Foley Square to the Courthouse, all handcuffed together. For those of you not familiar with downtown NYC, that walk is over a city blocks, through a park. The marshals walked a bit faster than the victims, and stretched them out across the park, making a great public display for the press.

It was so outrageous that it became a Saturday Night Live news item-"Wall Street brokers start fundraiser - Handcuffs across America." There was absolutely no reason for that conduct. None. Except for some perverse sense of pleasure in humilating another human being - who was innocent, by the way.

Giuliani had a couple of other tricks, like arresting a senior trader on the trading floor, with the press in attendance. Of course, none of the stock brokers in my case were ever convicted of anything, and the senior trader was not convicted of anything either. How do you undo the punishment that you unilaterally imposed on the innocent victim of your perverse sense of justice? You can't.

Prosecutors use the "perp walk" to humiliate the victim, and to get their name in the paper, and for no other reason. It is an outrage, and should be stopped immediately. If Judge Mukasy won't stop it, we need a federal judge to dismiss an indictment becuase of prosecutorial misconduct. That will stop the practice in a heartbeat.

Law Blog - WSJ.com : The 'Perp Walk' Debate: Prejudicial or Legit?: "The ‘Perp Walk’ Debate: Prejudicial or Legit?"
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