Friday, December 24, 2010

Frivolous Lawsuits Vol. 5

Okay, instead of "Frivolous" lawsuits, maybe the title of this post should be "Downright Sad Miscarriage of Justice."  Here is yet another example of how pathetic the American legal system is, and this time it's not just costing someone a dollar amount but their livelihood.

We came up to NH for Christmas, and as we drove into town yesterday, just about every house had a "Free Ward Bird" sign on their front lawn.  I had to google it after we arrived and got settled.  Here's the story in a nutshell:
It’s a long story, but in the short– a woman trespassed on Ward’s property and he asked her several times to leave, but she refused. She claimed that Ward came out of his house with a gun, ran down his porch steps pointing it at her. At the time, Ward had only been home 9 days since emergency surgery for a ruptured abdominal aorta. Not only was he in no condition to do what she claims he did, he has always maintained that he never pointed or gestured towards her with the gun. Now he is doing 3 to 6 years in state prison because it was her word against his.

Amazing.  What happened to "Live Free or Die" New Hampshire?  If this had happened in Texas, he could have actually shot her for trespassing and would have been justified in doing it.  I scratched my head and wondered what crime Ward had committed in asking a trespasser to leave his property. 

This article provides a good explanation.  This is the part that really pissed me off:
The key element of the criminal threatening law, for example, appears to be not the state of mind of the person making the threat but the emotional state of the target of the threat. If the person is scared enough, then the person making the threat is guilty.
Unfortunately for Ward, it also comes with a mandatory 3-year minimum prison sentence.  That baffles me.  I could understand some circumstances in which that law might be useful, but the mandatory sentence leaves the judge no room to account for mitigating circumstances.  It seems pretty clear that the punishment didn't fit the "crime" in this case and the courts are enforcing the letter of the law without regard to its intent.  Even the judge himself didn't want to send Ward to jail.  It has the local community here in an uproar.  Now Ward, husband and father of four and Cub Scout den leader is behind bars.

Is it just me, or is our legal system all about making each of us out to be victims of some wrong by somebody else so we can sue them (or in this case send them to prison)?  This case has some similarity to my last Frivolous Lawsuits post. In that case, if you publicly say something bad or embarrassing about somebody, then they can't sue you for slander because what you said was true.  However, they CAN sue you under the invasion of privacy false light tort because what you said made them LOOK BAD and caused them some sort of emotional trauma.  In this case, it doesn't matter if someone is trespassing on your property and you have asked them to leave if the manner in which you ask them to leave causes them some fear or emotional trauma.

Our society has gone from a "the stupid shall be punished" philosophy to a "the stupid must be protected by the law so we don't emotionally traumatize them" and "what can I sue you for to get rich quick" modus operandi.

My thoughts and prayers are with Ward and his family tonight.  I sincerely hope SOMEBODY with authority in the NH government sees what a miscarriage of justice this is and has the fortitude and integrity to pardon Ward so he can be where he belongs - at home with his family on Christmas.

No comments: