Although they were flawed in some ways (see: slavery, voting rights), our Framers were brilliant in a lot of ways. They were particularly visionary in the area of the judiciary. They believed that defendants deserved due process, a trial by a jury of their peers, the opportunity to see the evidence and hear the witnesses against them, and a presumption of innocence.
Sadly, our ability to carry out these ideals in practice has been mixed, at best. And that brings us to Friday’s news that the Luzerne County District Attorney has dropped all charges against Joan Romero and Pedro Cabrera in the murder of Derek Kichline in Hazleton last year. The DA had shaky eyewitnesses and little physical evidence and deserves credit for doing what the law requires in not going forward with this case.
For more than a year now, we’ve been hearing from Hazleton Mayor Louis Barletta that Kichline’s murder was the “straw that broke the camel’s back” and pushed him and city council into passing the Illegal Immigration Relief Act. As if the ordinance- well, ordinances since there are eight (or is it nine?) different versions- didn’t already show Barletta’s disdain for the Constitution, he has been trying these two men in public for more than a year, before they ever saw the inside of a courtroom, saw the evidence against them, or had the opportunity to confront the witnesses against them. Barletta has made it clear that he is hostile to the American way of justice, and it is public officials like him who feed on Americans’ fear of crime that debase the ideals our Founders put forth.
ACLU-PA’s Vic Walczak responded to the latest development in the case:
“This dismissal of charges adds to the long list of discredited claims Barletta has made in the course of demonizing undocumented immigrants for allegedly destroying Hazleton,” said attorney Witold “Vic” Walczak, of the American Civil Liberties Union, one of the groups suing the city.
The city’s own stats don’t back up Barletta’s claims that crime by illegal immigrants is destroying Hazleton, and now the anecdote that he has used over and over and over is gone.
Barletta called Walczak’s statement repulsive.
“Derek Kichline’s family and friends will never see justice for his death,” Barletta said. “The fact that the ACLU celebrates this and turns it into a public relations spectacle is disgusting, and Mr. Walczak should be ashamed of himself.”
To paraphrase Carl Weathers in Happy Gilmore, now that’s spoken like a true demagogue. That is, a demagogue who is watching the very issue that rocketed him to fame fall apart right before his very eyes.
Andy in Harrisburg