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French for stupid

I was mortified to read the position taken by Anthony Paul Diaz (April) regarding shackling of criminal defendants. It was naîve and jejune.

No attorney who cares about the constitutional rights of each of us should elevate concerns about “security” in a courthouse above the right of a citizen to a fair trial, and whatever Mr. Diaz personally believes about jurors, he evidently has very little actual experience with criminal trials and the jurors who serve on them. 

Jurors receive their first impression of a criminal defendant as soon as they walk in the courtroom — if that first impression is of a person wearing chains, they will assume s/he is (1) dangerous and (2) guilty. Many jurors already believe that an arrest is the equivalent of guilt. 

I also believe that for the duration of a trial — whether that is three days or three months — a defendant should be treated like the rest of us who have not been deprived of our liberty: dressed in civilian clothes and unshackled. Whatever the crimes are of which they are accused, they are humans who ought to be treated humanely.

Before you put everyone in chains, Mr. Diaz, walk a mile in their shackles. 

Nancy Schultz
Fresno County Public Defender

Clearly unconstitutional

Mr. Diaz’s proposal, if that’s what it is, flies in the face of numerous rulings by the California Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and many, indeed all as far as I am aware, Appellate Court opinions.

His specious rationale, that civil rights and a fair trial must be sacrificed at the “expense of society,” totally overrules the Bill of Rights.  Of course, if all sentences were life sentences or the death penalty, protection of the public would be greater. Of course, if all the accused are chained hand and foot, “society” would never experience these cases, apparently due to a breakdown in normal and routine security measures already in place.

William M. McGuigan
Chula Vista

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