Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Thoughts on Roman Polanski

Everyone, it seems, has an opinion on the arrest of director Roman Polanski in Switzerland a few days ago.

I have mixed feelings about his arrest. On one hand, the case can be made that Polanski isn't above the law and no one should be rewarded for evading justice. On the other hand, notwithstanding the severity of his crime, a civil remedy was reached between him and his victim Samantha Geimer a number of years ago after Geimer had launched a lawsuit against Polanski in civil court. If Geimer were still insistent that something be done and had no civil remedy been found then I would be more sympathetic to the arrest.

The warrant for Polanski's arrest was issued in 1978 (although an international one was added in 2005). It begs the question why now? Why was it so urgent to arrest Polanski in September but not in August?

But let's say Polanski is extradited to the United States. What happens then? Does he go into a courtroom to be sentenced to time served? Or is he sentenced to a prison sentence that doesn't fit the crime? Whatever the verdict it all seems like a dog and pony show. I don't want to diminish the seriousness of engaging in sexual intercourse with a minor. But if Polanski has compensated Geimer financially and Geimer isn't seeking any further remedy then I'm not sure how arresting and extraditing him is in the service of justice.

The limited resources of the Los Angeles County D.A. are better used elsewhere. Earlier this year, L.A. County came under criticism from Human Rights Watch for its large backlog of rape kits that had gone untested thus allowing some perpetrators to effectively get away with rape. I'm not a fan of HRW but the L.A. County's Sheriff Office announced it would make efforts to address their criticisms. But if L.A. County is expending its resources against Polanski rather than testing rape kits then something is very wrong.

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