Thursday, May 20, 2010

Supreme Court Rewards Jensen For Gaming The Legal System

The state Supreme Court ruled this morning that former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen should be re-tried for criminal misconduct in public office in his home county of Waukesha, not in Dane County where the offenses are alleged to have occurred.

Disagreeing with a circuit court and a state appeals court that both denied Jensen's request for a change of venue for his retrial, the high court retroactively applied a state law creating a home court advantage for Wisconsin politicians that was not on the books when Jensen was criminally charged over seven and a half years ago or when he was convicted in 2006 and sentenced to 15 months in prison and banned from the Capitol for five years.

After his conviction, Jensen's lawyers were able to find a loophole and get his conviction overturned on a technicality. And Jensen's friends in the Legislature wrote a new law in 2007 giving state politicians a privilege no other citizen in Wisconsin possesses, namely the ability to be tried in your home county instead of where crimes are alleged to have been committed. The circuit court and the appeals court both saw through this. The Supreme Court fell for it.

In ruling as they did, the members of the high court have rewarded the former speaker for gaming the criminal justice system for over seven and a half years and have sent the general public a powerful message. Wisconsin has two systems of justice, one for well-connected and powerful people like Scott Jensen and another for everyone else. All but a handful of citizens in this state cannot under any circumstances expect to be treated as Jensen is being treated if they are accused of breaking the law.

The circuit court got it right. The appeals court got it right. The Supreme Court got it horribly wrong. Regardless of whatever fine points of law members of the high court felt they were upholding, the end result is a continuing miscarriage of justice. And the reduction of the high-minded principle of equal justice under the law to a laughable farce.

1 comment:

clyde winter said...

The Supreme Court decision has effectively rewarded Jensen and his legal strategists for their protracted, convoluted exploitation and manipulation of technical protections and years-long appeals that are built into our legal system for persons charged and even convicted of crimes including felonies. That's ironic because Jensen and his partisan political friends have been long and loud in their public excoriation and denunciation of those very safeguards and appeals for criminal defendants when they are whipping up support for their "tough-on-crime" election and re-election campaigns.

Jensen's defenders say that Republican Jensen can't get a fair trial in a county where the crime was committed (as the state constitution explicitly requires for all the rest of us) because that county happens to elect Democrats to public office. Doesn't that raise the question of whether the people can get a fair trail if the accused gets to choose the venue for his trial, and the accused is an influential, politically "well-connected" personage in the very venue he chooses for his trial?

Name the Wisconsin counties where the district attorney and the circuit court judges are not all partisan political allies and cronies of the elected state legislators - the legislators who have voted themselves and each other this curious exemption from normal jurisprudence and our constitution (under the guise of reform).