I just read the article about the Lisl Auman case in Vanity Fair (which, as an aside, is perhaps the most web-challenged magazine in America). Auman is a young woman currently serving a life sentence without possibility of parole for a murder that was committed while she was in police custody.
For more detail, see the not-quite-as-challenged (though guys, ease up on the animated GIFs) site for her legal appeal (http://www.lisl.com/) or this Denver Post article by Ed Quillen: Lessons from Auman case.
For me, this story ends up being about slippery slopes, and the importance of having people running the system who are willing to draw the line somewhere short of perversions of justice like this. It’s somewhat like the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal: We start off with Bush declaring that prisoners captured in Afghanistan are “enemy combatants” without protection under the Geneva Conventions. Then, gradually, the desire to apply the same no-holds-barred approach spreads to the interrogation of Iraqis who clearly are covered by the Conventions.
So with Lisl Auman. Some bright politician decides that he can look tougher-on-crime-than-thou by pushing for a law that says if you are commiting felony burglary, and an accomplice kills someone in the course of that burglary, you can be charged with murder. And there’s a certain logic to that, but then we start tobogganing down the slippery slope, and end up sending a woman away for life for a crime she quite clearly didn’t commit.
I mean, where does it stop? Just because the authorities really, really want to punish someone, and the actual guilty party is already dead, doesn’t mean they get to grab whomever happens to be standing around and charge them instead.
The Auman case is currently before the Colorado State Supreme Court. Here’s hoping they fix this.