ACLU Wants to Release a Guilty Man
December 29, 2008
The ACLU is supporting an appeal of a Vermont case in which
a repeat offender was convicted and given a long sentence for assault on a
woman. The ACLU does not claim that the man is innocent, nor that his
sentence is anything but just, given his criminal history. They seek to
throw out his conviction and sentence on a technicality. The list of those
who filed briefs for and against the convicts claims, demonstrate the fact
that the ACLU and American society are on opposite sides in this and many
The facts for this article, but not all of the legal conclusions, come from
an article on the website of the Rutland Herald in Vermont. It concerns the
consideration by the US Supreme Court of a decision of the Vermont Supreme
Court about the conviction and sentencing there of a repeat offender,
Michael Brillon for assaulting his girlfriend. (Whether it was a current or
former girl friend is not stated in the article.)
The ACLU is up front in this case, having filed an amicus brief in favor of
Mr. Brillons position in the Supreme Court. Joining the ACLU in supporting
the convicted criminal is the National Association of Criminal Defense
Lawyers. There is also a group of retired state court judges who also
filed a brief in support. The politics of those former judges is probably
the same as the politics of the ACLU and Criminal Defense Lawyers.
The position of the convicted man and those who support him is that he was
denied his right to a speedy trial. There is no claim of innocence, no
claim that he was not a repeat offender, subject to long sentence, up to a
life sentence, as a result of this conviction on top of his prior record.
The state counters by claiming that the delays were caused by Mr. Brillon
himself, due to his repeated changing of his court-appointed,
taxpayer-funded lawyers. If so, there is no denial of a speedy trial, and
Mr. Brillons conviction and sentence will stand.
Supporting the Attorney General of Vermont and the prosecutors in this case
are a brief signed by almost 40 of the Attorneys General of the states.
Another brief in support of the state was filed by the Vermont Law School,
joined by 15 victims rights groups. There is also one from the National
Governors Association, and one from the Solicitor General of the US.
As is common in press coverage of the ACLU, the article spends all but its
final paragraph quoting from the briefs of the ACLU and its allies, and only
at the end gives this list which makes clear the interests of society and
law-abiding citizens to put repeat offenders behind bars for long sentences.
The participants in this case on both sides make clear the philosophy of the
ACLU. It is that prisoners should be freed by whatever means and
technicalities. It is also that the interests of society and victims of
crime are meaningless in the conduct of criminal trials and appeals.
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