The Difference of Thirty Years: Three Quotes

“A state trooper pulled over Florence’s BMW in 2005 as he and his family were on the way to his mother-in-law’s to celebrate the purchase of their new home. He was handcuffed and arrested in front of his distraught, pregnant wife and young son. He spent seven days in jail because of a warrant that said, mistakenly, that he was wanted for not paying a court fine. In fact, he had proof that the fine had been paid years earlier; he said he carried it in his glove box because he believed that police were suspicious of black men who drove nice cars.

Florence was jailed in Burlington County and then Essex County before a magistrate ordered him released. At Burlington, he said, he was forced to disrobe in front of an officer and told to lift his genitals. At Essex, he was strip-searched again and, he said, was made to squat and cough in front of others, a maneuver meant to expel anything hidden in a body cavity.”

-Robert Barnes, “Supreme Court Upholds Jail Strip Searches, Including for Minor Offenses.” Washington Post, April 2, 2012.

***

“People detained for minor offenses can turn out to be the most devious and dangerous criminals.”

-Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority in Florence v. County of Burlington (2012)

***

“In a Nation committed to equal protection of the laws there is no permissible ‘caste’ aspect of law enforcement. Yet we know that the discretion of judges and juries in imposing the death penalty enables the penalty to be selectively applied, feeding prejudices against the accused if he is poor and despised, and lacking political clout, or if he is a member of a suspect or unpopular minority, and saving those who by social position may be in a more protected position. In ancient Hindu law, a Brahman was exempt from capital punishment, and, under that law, ‘[g]enerally, in the law books, punishment increased in severity as social status diminished.'”

– William O. Douglas, concurring, Furman v. Georgia (1972)

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2 Responses to The Difference of Thirty Years: Three Quotes

  1. Peter K. Shaw, MD, FACC says:

    The concern about what an apprehended person might do seems to trump the assumption that people generally are not malicious. The decision to perform debasing procedures like strip search should be measured appropriate to the person’s alleged crime and past history. Carte blanche strip searching recalls a Nazi-like behavior that has no place in a free society.

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