American law — both federal and state statutory enactments and common law case outcomes — provides persons facing legal challenges from criminal justice authorities with fundamental and multiple protections that safeguard their rights and liberties.
In one relevant provision, for example, the U.S. Constitution provides that no person in the United States can be “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Elsewhere in that seminal document is contained the fundamental protection accorded an accused person “to be confronted with the witnesses against him.”
A recently concluded criminal law matter in one state underscores the slippery slope that confronted one person — a 58-year-old Spanish-speaking immigrant — caught between the dual dictates of those constitutional provisions.
Our readers with a strong interest in criminal law-related subjects might be somewhat familiar with the case of the man, who was released from jail custody last week after testifying in the murder trial of his son. His story has received widespread media attention.
The father was a so-called “material witness” that Oregon authorities believed unlikely to voluntarily appear at trial to offer testimony.
Their remedy for that to ensure that the father would in fact be in court: They simply kept him locked up continuously — for 905 days.
If that strikes our readers in Arkansas and elsewhere as an anomaly, it should: One media account of the matter refers to the man’s “notoriety as the longest-held witness in Oregon and perhaps the nation.”
What will of course resonate immediately with many readers is that the father was involuntarily held despite having never been charged with a crime.
The man was summarily released after testifying in court.
Source: OregonLive, “Oregon witness jailed for 905 days goes free with check for $5,750,” Emily E. Smith, March 19, 2015