Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sheriff McMillin Defends His Actions

Recently Bert Case interviewed Sheriff Malcolm McMillin and asked if Karen Irby got preferential treatment after her accident and when she turned herself in for arraignment. Sometimes Bert asks the really hard-hitting questions everybody already knows the answer to.

It turns out, it does help to be rich and sort of a local celebrity when you get in trouble with the law. Gee, aren't you shocked? Mostly it helps with stuff that ultimately doesn't make a whole lot of difference though, like getting a deputy escort into the detention center to keep the media away and allowing a person to turn themselves in rather than sending a deputy out to bring them back in handcuffs.

What counts is what happens in court and preferential treatment is a sword that cuts both ways. She might be more comfortable in these early stages of the case, but there's no place in the country where they can try either the criminal or civil aspects of this case and the jury won't be prejudiced against the accused because of her wealth and privilege. The more she uses the privileges of her class, the more juries will resent her for it.

Lawyers know this, that's why it's always an issue over whether their client shows up in court wearing street clothes or an orange jumpsuit. On one hand, an orange jumpsuit might make the client look like a criminal, on the other hand, street clothes might make them look like they're getting preferential treatment.

It works like this: If you go to a restaurant and act like a big shot throwing money around and show your behind, yeah, you might get the best table in the joint and get seated ahead of everybody else, but it won't keep the waiter from sticking his thumb in your soup and you don't even wanna know what the cooks did to the steak.

It's the same thing with the law. Preferential treatment might help the defendant in some aspects of the process, but it hurts them in others which are actually much more important.

In the end I think the Sheriff probably did the right thing. Some people were denied the spectacle they wanted, but he also saved the county thousands and thousands of dollars in medical expenses by delaying her arrest. I think he did the right thing in keeping her initial processing from turning into a circus too. Some people at home might get a thrill seeing her do the perp walk, but it does nothing for the people who died.

Some may not agree with this, but Sheriff McMillin has a reputation for trying to allow even the poorest of people who go through his system some dignity in the midst of their ordeal. Some might say it makes him soft on crime. It suits me fine though, and I know of cases where he did it and the accused didn't have a dime to contribute to his campaign.

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