(The Return of) Ignatz, by Sam Heldman

Thursday, November 07, 2002

Can anyone tell me where AG Ashcroft purports to get the legal authority to decree which state shall try the sniper suspects first? For that matter, even leaving aside the question of why AG Ashcroft gets to be the one refereeing the dispute among the prosecutors -- why do we treat this issue as though it's up to the prosecutors to work out among themselves? What I mean is, why don't we all recognize that it's largely up to the courts, with each having the power to set its own trial date after hearing from the defense about how much time the defense feels is needed for preparation as to each jurisdiction's various charges, as well as from the prosecution, and with the judges of various jurisdictions being free to consult with each other to ensure a smooth series of trial dates? Isn't that supposed to be the way our system of justice works -- that procedural decisions in criminal cases aren't solely within the authority of the prosecutor? Maybe there is a legal answer to these questions, but if so it has not been aired in the news reports that I have seen. And I do understand that AG Ashcroft, for various reasons including his "possession" of the suspects in federal custody (possession being 9/10 of the law, as they say), does have some substantial practical power to twist the arms of the various state prosecutors to go along with his preferences and in turn to pressure their respective state courts to go along too -- but the existence of that practical mojo does not, by itself, give legal legitimacy to his acting as the decisionmaker in this question, if (as I suspect) the question is more properly treated as one for judicial resolution.

posted by sam 8:53 PM 0 comments


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