Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Contemptuous Law?

The San Francisco Chronicle in an editorial this morning labels as "contemptuous law" California's law that allows a victim of domestic violence who refuses to testify against her abuser to be prosecuted.

It's hard to believe, but there it is, codified into California law: Should the plaintiff in a domestic violence case decide that he or she does not want to testify against the defendant, that plaintiff can be held in contempt of court - and incarcerated.

To put it more simply, someone who's already suffered domestic violence can be tossed into jail for refusing to testify against his or her batterer. The idea is mind-boggling - the state can use another form of mind control against someone who is already struggling to be free of violation and manipulation. Why in the world do we allow this?

There's absolutely no reason why we should, and that's why it's critical for the state Assembly's Public Safety Committee to pass SB1356 today, and send the bill on for a full vote on the floor. SB1356 has already passed the Senate, where author Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, was able to advocate for it. But it appears that opposition from the District Attorneys Association may stall it in the Assembly.

Its hard to believe that we codified such a harsh principal into law, only if you ignore the four decade long war on crime that has transformed almost every feature of our democracy. As a major element of this war, prosecutors have assumed enormous power in our criminal justice system and executives at all levels have claimed more unilateral power. Usually they do so in the name of the victim but only those victims who support their demands for security and harsh justice.

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