The Perp Walk: Is The Circus Over?
When Maureen Callahan in Sunday’s New York Post sides with the French, it’s time to check if hell’s frozen over. The “Perp Walk” a time honored publicity stunt first created by J. Edgar Hoover is now causing an international stir. Former IMF head and French Presidential Candidate Dominique Strauss-Khan, disheveled and handcuffed, was paraded before the press last week by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.
This taxpayer funded Circus Act has launched the political careers of many politically ambitious prosecutors from Chris Christie to Rudolph Giuliani and Eliot Spitzer. But is that what our criminal justice system is about?
The French are appalled that we haven’t learned anything from their experiences with the Guillotine being used to appease the angry masses, or from our own ugly history of the Stockade or the scarlet letter “A” that adulterers were forced to wear.
The world now has our justice system under the microscope, and we may not like the attention. We are the only country in the world that allows one to gain freedom by posting bail, meaning if you don’t have money, you sit in jail.
I’ll never forget the words of a law school professor. “You can judge how civilized a society is by how it treats its prisoners.”
The scrutiny has just started and I wonder if the cliché “we have the best criminal justice system in the world” will still be in use a year from now.
John O’Hara is an attorney. He lives in Brooklyn.
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