In 2002 there was a ballot issue (that I helped put on the ballot), a proposal for a constitutional amendment dealing with the criminal justice system, on which South Dakotans voted and defeated 80%-20%. The margin of defeat was due in large part to the frenzy with which the lawyers attacked it.
We proposed that people accused of a crime, in addition to being able to hire a professional to defend them, to see evidence against them, to question witnesses against them, etc., be able to “argue the merits, validity, and applicability of the law, including the sentencing laws.”
In the pamphlet distributed by the Sec. of State, which gives an opponent and a proponent of each of the ballot questions a few hundred words to argue their positions, SD State Bar representative Bob Frieberg made the outrageous statement that passage of Amendment A would allow a jury to “impose a trivial fine for murder.”
There is a law in SD that prohibits a person from publishing a statement about a ballot question that (s)he knows to be a lie. As a lawyer, Frieberg knows that juries do not impose sentences. Period. He committed a misdemeanor, as did the Sec. of State (although the SOS's commission was unintentional). My complaints to the Attorney General went unanswered, of course, since Frieberg is a sycophant of all things Attorney Generalish.
Those defecations of character having been made, I’m interested, after seven years have passed (and the statute of limitations on prosecution for that crime having expired), what Forumpians think about the proposal today.
Should someone accused of a crime be able to argue that, while (s)he may have violated the law, the law itself is stupid or has no merit, or that it should not apply to the specific instance involving that defendant, or that the possible punishment for its violation is excessive?