Today the United States Supreme Court upheld a ruling on the statute of limitations. The case in a question- a double homicide, kidnapping, rape, molestation, embezzlement, and grant theft auto, was originally brought by the New York City District Attorney against “John Doe” late last year.
On October 1st, 2008, Mr. Doe, allegedly rushed into the Federal Reserve Bank of Manhattan wielding semi-automatic weapons. Apparently Mr. Doe had been embezzling money from various charities, and was seeking to destroy the financial records of the money transfers to his account.
After storming through the front door, and being told by the teller that she “didn’t have access” to his records, he shot and killed her. The security guard, too fell victim to Mr. Doe, as he unleashed a barrage of bullets at him. Mr. Doe, unsatisfied with his inability to erase his records, in a fit of rage demanded that the manager empty the contents of 6 drawers into his canvas bag, before ordering the manager out of the bank and onto the street at gunpoint.
Once he was outside the bank, Mr. Doe then pulled over a vehicle, firing 3 shots through the windshield at the elderly driver, Ms. Patterson, an 80-year old resident of Manhattan, who suffered minor injuries, described the criminal as “a crazy young man”. Authorities say, that Mr. Doe then forced the manager to drive to his home, where Mr. Doe then allegedly raped and molested various members of the manager’s family, whose names are not being released at this time.
The saga finally ended just over a month later, in November when authorities were able to track down and arrest Mr. Doe, following a tip from a neighbor who was worried by the the “bloodied clothing” she saw Mr. Doe disposing of. The various victims of Mr. Doe’s crime scheme were later shocked though, when the NY District Attorney’s case against Mr. Doe was thrown out of court by the judge, because the “statute of limitations bars the bringing of any civil or criminal charges against Mr. Doe; despite the seemingly heinous nature of his actions”.
It turns out that New York had an old, obscure law on the books that prevents the bringing of civil or criminal charges by the state against any resident for actions that took place over 30 days prior to their arrest. This little known law, referred to as Code 47-32, is an egregious example of statute of limitations gone wrong.
Despite the lives he destroyed on that fateful October day, Mr. Doe is apparently set to walk free next week, with the Supreme Court ordering not only his immediate release, but also compensation for the time he was “unlawfully incarcerated”. As charges cannot be brought against Mr. Doe, authorities have cautioned against using the 35-year old’s name in print, as his lawyers are expected to bring a defamation suit against the state.
Okay, so if you’ve read this far, you are likely floored by the absurdity of a known criminal who wreaked so much havoc through his actions, being allowed to walk free after 30 days because the “statute of limitations” have expired.
Before you get up in arms, I caution you, you will not find this story elsewhere online because I made it up. But, before you put your arms down, I say to you this is simply an exaggeration to demonstrate a very real problem with our judicial system.
Today on NPR I heard a story about a rabbi who molested a young boy twice a week for over two months. Years later when the boy told his parent about the abuse, the parents confront the school officials, who agreed to fire the rabbi. However, 1 week after the boy turned 23, and the statute of limitations for civil or criminal suit expired, the school hired the rabbi back. I was dumbfounded by the absurdity of this, and then I thought of Lilly Ledbetter.
At the signing of the new anti-wage discrimination bill, I was struck by how ridiculous the whole situation was. There, on national T.V., at the White House, the President of the United States of America acknowledged that Goodyear had wronged her, broke the law even, but that there was nothing he, or anyone else could do about it (the supreme court really threw out her case due to the statute of limitations).
How can our system of justice protect wrong doers from prosecution simply because of a statute of limitations? If someone commits a crime and hurts another, it makes no sense to release them from liability because a certain amount of time has passed. Essentially the message here is- breaking the law is a crime- unless you get away with it for “x” years.
While the story I told above is a dramitization, the implications are real. We need to reform our penal code to protect victims of crimes, not the perpetrators.