The Jury Talks Back


If the offence is heinous

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fritz @ 8:09 pm

Hat-tip to Keith Burgess-Jackson who linked to A.C. Grayling’s piece on the Polanski controversy.  Patterico has already written a ton about this subject,  but I thought that Grayling’s take might be instructive, if for no other reason than to point out what the ground for pursuing this kind of case against this kind of crime might be.  Grayling writes,

Once again, the point is only partly to punish the perpetrator himself; it is as important to signal the continued resolution of society that there will be no hiding place — not even advanced age — for those who do serious harm to others.


It is easy for people to be swayed by considerations of personality in such cases as the Polanski arrest. In general the law does well if it addresses itself to individuals and their circumstances rather than imposing rigid blanket laws that contradict justice as often as they serve it, precisely because they ignore the special individual circumstances. But with the great crimes of rape, murder and genocide, prosecution and punishment are about society’s struggle to protect itself now and in the future against the worst aspects of its own members’ behaviour. There is room for a degree of compassion towards prisoners even if they have committed monstrous crimes, but there is no room for failing to punish the crime itself.

This leaves open the position that Polanski ought to be brought back to the United States for sentencing, but that his punishment once that’s done ought to be as light as it was likely to be when he was originally facing the court.  Perhaps as light as 48 days.


  1. Polanski ought to be happy he isn’t facing an angry father with a 12 gauge side by side.

    ANYONE who thinks Polanski should be let go is also a pervert, if not closet anarchist.

    Comment by PCD — 9/30/2009 @ 6:06 am

  2. I disagree. His plea bargain should stand (so he doesn’t have to worry about the “rape rape” charge for which he is clearly also guilty) but he will be in front of a new and different judge, and one who has no legal or ethical obligation to abide by the intentions of the previous judge that were never entered into an order. He should get the maximum sentence the crime he pled to allowed back in 1978.

    Comment by Sean P — 9/30/2009 @ 7:39 am

  3. Sean, Plea bargains are not binding upon the judge. He should get 5 to 10 for the original crime he ran on and then another consecutive sentence for running out on the bail.

    Comment by PCD — 9/30/2009 @ 7:54 am

  4. Could it be argued that each time Polanski left a country with an extradition treaty with the US, it counted as a separate flight?

    Comment by Scott Jacobs — 9/30/2009 @ 8:14 am

  5. I find the various arguments interesting because of the connections of the reasoning to the explanations of Maimonides why the Bible is so insistent that one cannot change the law for an individual. That is, if the punishment were for a capital offense (or life without parole [exile to certain cities] for certain classes of homicide), one cannot lessen the penalty even if the person is unique in society (such as a famous doctor). In this case, just because the rapist is a “famous” film director is no reason to go easy on him.

    Sentence him to “48 days” and then extend his sentence by one day for every day that he evaded arrest. He will complete his original sentence in 48 days, and then have to serve the remainder of the 30 years as the extension.

    Of course, given the nature of his crime, he might not survive the 48 days.

    Comment by Sabba Hillel — 9/30/2009 @ 10:30 am

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