Not that I care what happens to former Senator Stevens in Alaska…. In fact I despise career politicians on both sides and believe that there should be term limits for all congressmen. But when a federal judge tossed a conviction and opened his own special prosecution of the prosecutors who “secured” Stevens’ conviction, I think it was a great moment for our country. I wish there could be more. Because the same conduct happens every day across the country at the state level with hardly a sigh from the presiding trial judges, much less an overturned conviction and a reverse prosecution.
The fact is that we give prosecutors way too much power. We have so many damned laws in West Virginia – and in every other state – that almost everything you do everyday is illegal. Everything. Want to take your grandson rabbit hunting? In all likelihood you will violate a dozen laws governing the transport of firearms and hunting regulation red-tape before you return home.
And if it’s not illegal, then all it takes to be prosecuted is for some lying cop to say that you did something illegal. In West Virginia, every allegedly illegal act carries a potential sentence of up to 1 year for most misdemeanors, and years and years for the felonies. Then, the prosecutors can charge you with a dozen counts for every allegedly illegal act, putting you in the position of spending the rest of your life in prison. They have the power to take away your freedom and your property. This power is unchecked. It’s not usually a problem when you have an honest and sensical prosecutor. But what happens when you have a devious or evil person as the prosecutor? You have a real problem – one which has occurred and has been documented across the country time after time.
Our only defense? Criminal defense attorneys and judges. And good luck getting a judge to toss a conviction for a non-former U.S. Senator.
– John H. Bryan, West Virginia Attorney.