CHRIS POWELL: Time limit on sex charges is crucial in seeking justice

Published on Wednesday, 13 February 2019 16:58
Written by Chris Powell


Once upon a time liberals defended individual rights, often taking great political risk to do so. Not so much anymore.

These days in pursuit of political correctness liberals often command the mob to destroy individual rights, like the rights to freedom of expression, to bear arms, to have public trials, and to confront accusers. In the General Assembly the politically correct attack on statutes of limitations has resumed.

Senate Democrats, led by Mae Flexer of Killingly, again are proposing to greatly lengthen or repeal the statutes of limitations for prosecution of sex crimes. Flexer calls these statutes of limitations “backward and antiquated.”

But their purposes are timeless: to ensure that charges are tried while evidence and witnesses remain available and memories are fresh, and to prevent prejudice from substituting for evidence.

Spurring the attack on statutes of limitations is the growing realization that sex crimes are so underreported because victims don’t want the trouble and embarrassment of adjudication, which are worse with sex crimes. Yet the ancient principles of fairness remain the same. Justice is not to facilitate convictions but to find the truth.

Lengthening or repealing statutes of limitations will serve mainly to rationalize delaying accusations until evidence is compromised.

That is exactly the wrong message for the law to convey, as was demonstrated last year by the controversy over the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Kavanaugh became the last-minute target of an uncorroborated accusation of sexual assault said to have taken place 36 years earlier when he and his accuser were in high school. Made in a reasonably timely way, within a few years, the accusation might have been corroborated or persuasively rejected. Instead, because of the long delay, it only sowed doubt and damaged reputations.

But at least the Kavanaugh case and recent sexual accusations against celebrities and priests have demolished the complaint that women can’t come forward promptly because they won’t be believed.

These days prevailing opinion goes quite the other way, with most people automatically believing any sexual accusation. So defending due process of law, of which statutes of limitations are a crucial part, has never been more urgent.

The Connecticut chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union used to be devoted to defending due process but now mainly pursues a liberal political agenda that has little connection to civil liberties. Whoever disputes the demagoguery against due process in Connecticut now may feel quite alone.

Foxes guard the henhouse

When Connecticut’s Municipal Accountability Review Board convened last week to receive Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin’s report on the struggling city’s finances, it looked as if the foxes were guarding the henhouse.

For co-chairing the board were the new state treasurer, Shawn Wooden, and Melissa McCaw, the new secretary of the state budget office, the Office of Policy and Management.

As president of the Hartford City Council a few years ago, Wooden was the leading advocate of building the minor-league baseball stadium whose expense pushed Hartford’s debt far beyond the city’s ability to pay, prompting its $500 million bailout by state government.

Until recently McCaw was Hartford’s budget director, though the city seldom has given any sign of even having one.

Bringing accountability to Hartford might put Wooden and McCaw themselves in the dock. Until they disqualify themselves it will be a charade.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Connecticut.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Column on Wednesday, 13 February 2019 16:58. Updated: Wednesday, 13 February 2019 17:01.