Wednesday, March 10, 2004
The Rule Of Law

Andrew Coyne has eloquently nailed it on the Martha Stewart conviction:

Talk about irony: the arguments made in Martha's behalf are perilously close to those made by Bill Clinton's apologists. Of course he lied, they said then. Of course she lied, others say now. Wouldn't you? Well no, not in a court of law, and not to the police. But even if I would -- even if it is understandable, in some sense, that he/she did -- that is not the business of the law. The law cannot look at it from 'his point of view.' It must look at things from the point of view of the law, and of what is necessary for the rule of law to be maintained.
I've been reading about this case on quite a few blogs, and most of the comment I've seen has been, if not pro-Martha, then anti-conviction; and it all points to the fact that she was convicted of lying, rather than of actually engaging in illegal stock activities. But I think Andrew's right:
Contrary to what some would have you believe, she was not prosecuted for the Kafkaesque crime of denying her guilt. She was charged with, prosecuted for and convicted of specific acts of obstruction of justice: lying to investigators, destroying evidence, etc. It doesn't matter how justified or unjustified the authorities were in launching their investigation. Her only valid course in law was, if not to cooperate fully, then at least not to obstruct their efforts.
And why do I feel he's right? Because all the prosecutors did was make use of a legal tool that they had at their disposal to convict a person who broke the law. We see this all the time, folks - it's not anything new (just as fining Howard Stern is nothing new). Heck, they do the same thing on Law & Order.

No, the important thing here is not that Martha Stewart wasn't convicted for perpetrating stock fraud; the important thing here is that a jury of her peers reviewed her actions, her defense, and the law, and they judged her in violation. She has the option to appeal now, and good on her for doing so - but guess what? It's all a part of the system, and it has been a part of the system for years. The Rule Of Law has been upheld.
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