Opinion

Editor's Column: Crime and punishment continues in Olympia

Yours truly owes Randy Dorn, superintendent of public instruction, a humble apology. After Dorn was arrested for Driving Under the Influence, this column predicted he would get a lawyer, plead either not guilty or no contest, go through the diversion program and come out cleaner than a referee’s whistle after a few years. This legal strategy has worked for innumerable politicians in the past.

But Dorn surprised everyone, including his own lawyer, by admitting he had been driving while intoxicated. He didn’t dispute the competency of the arresting officer, bring into question the accuracy of the blood-alcohol recording device or swear he had downed only a couple of beers but the testing results were skewered by his asthma, lack of sleep or some other medical condition.

Dorn simply confessed and took his medicine, which consisted of one day in jail, a fine and driver’s license suspension. As the top school official in the state, he called it a “learning experience.” This of course made thousands of lawyers across the state panic. If defendants learn to simply tell the truth, what good are lawyers? Dorn’s attorney advised him not to plead guilty, but the rascal decided to go against legal advice and tell the truth. This brought our aptly-named criminal justice system to a virtual halt. Dorn’s case was dealt with in a few hours. What if every guilty person pleaded guilty? Lawyers would be drawing unemployment, judges would be drawing doodles during the endless admissions of guilt, and prospective jurors would be drawing passes until an innocent person is hauled into court and demands a jury trial. One possible negative impact of Dorn’s truthfulness is that police will have to start arresting innocent people just to keep the criminal justice system rolling along. If you were at work surrounded by a dozen people when the bank was robbed, too bad. Get yourself a lawyer and try for a plea bargain, or take your chances with jurors who are used to every suspect pleading guilty.

If the Dorn effect spreads, the state will no doubt have to look for even more criminals to prosecute, hopefully ones that won’t plead guilty and bollock up the system. Fortunately, the Legislature went out of its way to create a new class of criminal called dentists who will be advising their clientele to break the law, or at least undermine the tax system, an act which could be construed as illegal. Strapped for cash and unwilling to tax campaign contributors, our fearless leaders decided to put a tax on candy, soda pop and chewing gum, all of which dentists have been warning against for years. But now such warnings could constitute encouraging 10-year-olds to dodge taxes by not chewing gum, swilling pop or eating candy. The kids will be just as guilty. If arrested, little Johnny should follow Superintendent Dorn’s advice, plead guilty and wear a tongue monitor so the state can be assured he’s consuming the prescribed amount of candy, pop and gum each day. For encouraging tax dodging, dentists should have to answer complex questions with their mouths full of various gadgets and instruments so they can’t be understood by the jury.

“That’ll be 30 days in jail,” the judge will say. “You can spit now.”

At least there will still be some justice in the world.

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