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mistermack

Statute of limitations

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I don't really see the ethical reason for having a statute of limitations. Especially now that people are living longer lives. To some extent, it could make sense in some cases to prevent miscarriages of justice, when memories of witnesses get more unreliable over time.

But today, with modern forensics, it's possible to solve a lot of serious cases without relying on the weakness of human memory. DNA is a prime example, but fibre evidence, ballistics and even photographic evidence have the potential to be reliable evidence way into the future. Plus stuff that hasn't been thought of yet. 

It's not beyond the wit of a decent judge, to direct a jury so that unreliable factors like memory are treated with the appropriate caution given extended time having passed. So I think it's right and desirable to scrap statutes of limitations that allow the guilty to go free, just because they got away with it for a long time. Obviously I'm talking about serious crimes, not civil or trivial cases. I don't think you get any less guilty, with each passing year.

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I think it is as much practical as well as ethical. If, after 60 years, there is no chance of proving that someone stole a chocolate bar when they were 12 does it make any sense to try and enforce that. And a law that cannot be enforced is a bad law. 

That means it will often come down to one persons word against another. This often leads to miscarriages of justice. The UK has no statute of limitations but there has been discussion on introducing one because of some high profile cases of child abuse leading to wrongful convictions (even accusations can destroy someone’s life).

As you say, it should not apply to serious cases. And in most jurisdictions that is the case. (One can always argue about the definition of serious, of course.)

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11 hours ago, mistermack said:

But today, with modern forensics, it's possible to solve a lot of serious cases without relying on the weakness of human memory. DNA is a prime example, but fibre evidence, ballistics and even photographic evidence have the potential to be reliable evidence way into the future. Plus stuff that hasn't been thought of yet. 

You are mistaken over-trusting DNA, to catch true murderer after many years. Because it might be as well misused against incorrect innocent person.

I will give you examples how it can put somebody innocent to jail, or even sentenced to death, or life in prison:

- imagine you have girlfriend, or girl for one night met at club, have sex with her at night, she is going early to job, leaves your apartment early and somebody is attacking her in the middle of route, but leaves no his DNA, or leaves DNA. Now, police officers are checking DNA on the body, and find it is yours. Are you murderer? Are you rapist? Did you participate in multi person rape on her? No, you just had normal sex with her.. But you are unlucky that she has been attacked right after it.. Even worse if police finds out you had argue through SMS or Internet with her, just before somebody else attacked her..

- imagine you are working at mall. Yours responsibility is to put bottles with beer, wine, vodka, whisky etc. to refrigerator or simply on shelf. Client takes bottle. And many hour later it is used by somebody on the party as weapon (broken bottle), and somebody dies due to injures. Again, police officers are checking tool used to commit murder, and find out your DNA on it... Again, you can be mistakenly sentenced by court, innocent person put to jail, thanks to DNA found on tool used to committing crime..

If police had your DNA because you are in database already, they will find you immediately, and you have immediate troubles,

but if not, they have "trace", and many (dozen) years later DNA from that crime scene can be compared with your DNA and match! Match, but not the true murderer!

ps. My post is not against "statue of limitations" nor for it.. but just not to have absolute trust in DNA, even if it matches..

Edited by Sensei

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I entirely agree about the danger of miscarriages of justice, but it should be possible for the proof bar to be raised when the case uses old evidence. 

I would put in another layer of protection, before the trial goes to a jury. The prosecution would have to persuade a judge that the trial should go ahead, if the offence is older than a certain figure. The judge would also have to rule on admissibility of some of the evidence, due to it's age. You couldn't have the judge rule that the case was weak or strong, as that would prejudice the trial. 

On the reliance on dna, that is for the judge, lawyers and jury to work out. It is gone into in great detail in a trial, and the defendant gets the benefit of the doubt, so it's no different to any other evidence. It's hard to challenge the scientific result, but the defence gets every opportunity to challenge what the dna actually establishes, just like every other bit of evidence.

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13 hours ago, mistermack said:

It's not beyond the wit of a decent judge, to direct a jury so that unreliable factors like memory are treated with the appropriate caution given extended time having passed.

I think it's beyond the wit of a judge to direct the jury based on a memory of yesterday.

 

2 minutes ago, mistermack said:

On the reliance on dna, that is for the judge, lawyers and jury to work out.

I have never met or even got close to the Queens handbag, but through the six degrees of seperation, it's perfectly possible to find my DNA, in that handbag...

Maybe even one, I've shaken hands with the Prince of Wales...

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11 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

it's perfectly possible to find my DNA, in that handbag...

Maybe even one, I've shaken hands with the Prince of Wales...

Don't judge other people like yourself. I'm sure Charlie doesn't go into his mum's handbag looking for her pension.

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Just now, mistermack said:

I'm sure Charlie doesn't go into his mum's handbag looking for her pension.

Probably not, but she might of asked him to get her a tissue from it.

2 minutes ago, mistermack said:

Don't judge other people like yourself.

That's good advice.

 

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3 hours ago, dimreepr said:

she might of asked him to get her a tissue from it.

No, she'd get an equerry to ask him. And he would tell his butler to get it. 

 

What made me think about statutes of limitation, was the case of the Golden State Killer. The numbers are absolutely horrific. 120 plus burglaries, 50 plus rapes, and at least 13 murders dating back to 1974 - 86. They were really sadistic crimes too, with the rapist targeting couples, and forcing the husband to balance crockery on their backs, under threat of death, while he raped the wives. 

He can't be prosecuted for the rapes, they weren't serious enough, so they came under the statute of limitations.

They now have a suspect, and good dna evidence, and he will probably die or stay in jail for ever, for the murders, but it does illustrate the point. If he had never killed anyone, they wouldn't be able to do a thing about the rapes and violent burglaries that he committed. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_State_Killer   

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8 hours ago, Sensei said:

You are mistaken over-trusting DNA, to catch true murderer after many years. Because it might be as well misused against incorrect innocent person.

I will give you examples how it can put somebody innocent to jail, or even sentenced to death, or life in prison:

- imagine you have girlfriend, or girl for one night met at club, have sex with her at night, she is going early to job, leaves your apartment early and somebody is attacking her in the middle of route, but leaves no his DNA, or leaves DNA. Now, police officers are checking DNA on the body, and find it is yours. Are you murderer? Are you rapist? Did you participate in multi person rape on her? No, you just had normal sex with her.. But you are unlucky that she has been attacked right after it.. Even worse if police finds out you had argue through SMS or Internet with her, just before somebody else attacked her..

- imagine you are working at mall. Yours responsibility is to put bottles with beer, wine, vodka, whisky etc. to refrigerator or simply on shelf. Client takes bottle. And many hour later it is used by somebody on the party as weapon (broken bottle), and somebody dies due to injures. Again, police officers are checking tool used to commit murder, and find out your DNA on it... Again, you can be mistakenly sentenced by court, innocent person put to jail, thanks to DNA found on tool used to committing crime..

If police had your DNA because you are in database already, they will find you immediately, and you have immediate troubles,

but if not, they have "trace", and many (dozen) years later DNA from that crime scene can be compared with your DNA and match! Match, but not the true murderer!

ps. My post is not against "statue of limitations" nor for it.. but just not to have absolute trust in DNA, even if it matches..

Nice explanation of why the law includes the phrase "Beyond reasonable doubt".

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20 hours ago, mistermack said:

What made me think about statutes of limitation, was the case of the Golden State Killer. The numbers are absolutely horrific. 120 plus burglaries, 50 plus rapes, and at least 13 murders dating back to 1974 - 86. They were really sadistic crimes too, with the rapist targeting couples, and forcing the husband to balance crockery on their backs, under threat of death, while he raped the wives. 

He can't be prosecuted for the rapes, they weren't serious enough, so they came under the statute of limitations.

I'm not sure of the American laws but here in the UK, in cases like this, there's no such statute nor should there be, provided the evidence is strong enough.

 

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8 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

I'm not sure of the American laws but here in the UK, in cases like this, there's no such statute nor should there be, provided the evidence is strong enough.

Apart from anything else, if you deny people of justice, some of them will administer their own.

If I had been raped by a stranger as a child, and the case was solved 25 years later, only to be outside of the statute of limitations, there would be a very real possibility of me taking my own revenge on the culprit, especially if the crime had severely affected me. And the same would go for the rape of a son or daughter. More so in fact. 

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10 minutes ago, mistermack said:

if you deny people of justice, some of them will administer their own.

What is Justice?

 

Edited by dimreepr

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1 minute ago, dimreepr said:

What is Justice?

Whatever I decide.

The rapist who had his balls cut off would probably disagree.

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11 minutes ago, mistermack said:

If I had been raped by a stranger as a child, and the case was solved 25 years later, only to be outside of the statute of limitations, there would be a very real possibility of me taking my own revenge on the culprit, especially if the crime had severely affected me. And the same would go for the rape of a son or daughter. More so in fact. 

Then you would have suffered the effects for 25 years, my sympathy; but killing the perp would only add to your futurre suffering not erase your past sufferings. 

4 minutes ago, mistermack said:

The rapist who had his balls cut off would probably disagree.

What if he felt no pain and was grateful?

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5 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

Then you would have suffered the effects for 25 years, my sympathy; but killing the perp would only add to your futurre suffering not erase your past sufferings.

I agree, but it would still be worth it. 

 

7 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

What if he felt no pain and was grateful?

He would definitely feel pain, and would definitely not be grateful. Not for long, anyway. 

I'm actually against the death penalty, but only because of the risk of executing an innocent person. If you could guarantee that the person was guilty in some way, I would have no objection at all. (provided that the offence had no mitigating factors)

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11 minutes ago, mistermack said:

He would definitely feel pain, and would definitely not be grateful.

Why? 

There are people who don't feel pain (rare) and some who would be grateful for a reduced level of certain hormones; so what if you hit the jackpot and he was both?

Would that change your idea of justice?

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1 minute ago, dimreepr said:

Why? 

There are people who don't feel pain (rare) and some who would be grateful for a reduced level of certain hormones; so what if you hit the jackpot and he was both?

Would that change your idea of justice?

It would change the method. It all sounds a bit unlikely though. What's the percentage of rapists? And the percentage of people who don't feel pain? Multiplied by the percentage of people who wouldn't mind having their balls cut off, it probably exceeds the total population.

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1 minute ago, mistermack said:

It would change the method

How?

2 minutes ago, mistermack said:

It all sounds a bit unlikely though. What's the percentage of rapists? And the percentage of people who don't feel pain? Multiplied by the percentage of people who wouldn't mind having their balls cut off, it probably exceeds the total population.

Maybe, but probability is not in question here.

You stated that people subject to the statute of limitations would seek their own justice, my question is, how would that help them?

 

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27 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

Why? 

There are people who don't feel pain (rare) and some who would be grateful for a reduced level of certain hormones; so what if you hit the jackpot and he was both?

Or people who enjoy pain. Thankfully this guys long dead.

Albert fish

IMG_1948.JPG.e2bf00f5a67ad581dbba63e975abcdda.JPG

X-ray of Fish's pelvis and perineum, with two dozen self embedded needles.

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4 minutes ago, Curious layman said:

Thankfully this guys long dead.

Natures "statute of limitations"...

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One element in the concept of law enforcement (at least in the US, and probably elsewhere) are safeguards against sending the innocent to jail. And they are not foolproof.

So one must ask whether the odds of getting a conviction wrong after a certain period of time goes up or not. I would expect it to go up, for the very reason that has been cited already: memory fades/changes. Eyewitness testimony becomes less reliable. 

In the US, many violent crimes (especially murder) don't have a statute of limitations, but the specifics vary by state. So these concerns about rape or arson are moot in some cases, as they can still be prosecuted. The ones that can't tend to be ones where they probably aren't as thorough in collecting evidence (e.g. DNA) in the first place, so you really can't lean on that as justification for not having the statute of limitations.

https://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/state-statutes-of-limitation-for-criminal-charges

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1 hour ago, dimreepr said:

You stated that people subject to the statute of limitations would seek their own justice, my question is, how would that help them?

You seem to be under the illusion that people only do things that help them. In the real world, that doesn't apply. People often do things because they feel like it. And after being the victim of a serious crime, most people want to see the criminal suffer. And the more serious the crime, the more suffering they want to see. 

The justice system is there to get between the victim and the perpetrator, and deliver some form of justice that is enough in most cases to prevent people applying their own. Among other things, but it's a big element of it.

Back in the days when justice was less reliable, you used to get lynchings, when not just the victim, but a big chunk of society would meet out their own justice. That's what happens when organised justice is lacking.

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2 hours ago, dimreepr said:

I'm not sure of the American laws but here in the UK, in cases like this, there's no such statute nor should there be, provided the evidence is strong enough.

But that does not prevent there being limitations.
In fact there are a whole variety of them for many different purposes, made more complicated by differences in criminal and civil law.

 

Coincidentally I had a conversation last night with an old school friend, now retired, but a solicitor by profession.
He was telling me about a some grit in a piece of bread which damaged a tooth.
I asked if he was going to sue and he said "probably not, but he had three years to think about it
"Me "3 years  ??"
Yes he said, you have to issue proceedings within 3 years for this type of thing.

 

If only Imatfaal was still here to explain.

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7 minutes ago, studiot said:

If only Imatfaal was still here to explain.

Indeed.

23 minutes ago, mistermack said:

You seem to be under the illusion that people only do things that help them. In the real world,

In the real world, there is no illusion; by definition...

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2 hours ago, dimreepr said:

In the real world, there is no illusion; by definition...

Delusion, in your case. 😉

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