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Police not responsible for woman's murder

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of a woman's lawsuit against Vanderburgh County officials following the death of her daughter because there isn't a federal constitutional right to be protected by the government against private violence when the government isn't complicit.

In Christine Sandage, et al. v. Board of Commissioners of Vanderburgh County, et al., No. 08-1540, Christine Sandage sued county officials after her daughter and two other people were murdered by Travis Moore, who was on work release at the time. Moore then killed himself. Moore had been serving a four-year sentence for robbery and was in the custody of the Vanderburgh County Sheriff's Department.

Sandage's daughter, Sheena Sandage-Shofner, had complained twice to the sheriff's department that Moore was harassing her. The suit claims the department's failure to revoke Moore's work-release privileges and put him back in prison deprived the victims' of their lives without due process of the law.

The federal appellate court affirmed the District Court's dismissal of the suit because there isn't a federal constitutional right for people to be protected by the government from private violence in which the government isn't associated with or participating in the violence. The 7th Circuit cited several cases to support its ruling, including Bowers v. DeVito, 686 F.2d 616, 618 (7th Cir. 1982), and DeShaney v. Winnebago County Dept. of Social Services, 489 U.S. 189 (1989).

To have an enforceable federal constitutional right to provide a service such as protection against violence would be impractical and the federal courts would have to decide how much money must be appropriated for police, prosecutions, and prisons; minimum length of state prison sentences; when prisoners should be allowed to be on work release; and other issues, wrote Judge Richard Posner.

The plaintiffs' cite Monfils v. Taylor, 165 F.3d 511 (7th Cir. 1998), in which Monfils had tipped off the police to a thief at his job but begged the police not to release the recorded telephone call or else the thief would recognize his voice. The police agreed to not release the tape, but one officer gave a copy to the thief after he requested it; the thief then killed Monfils. The officer didn't know there had been an agreement not to release the tape. The 7th Circuit in that case upheld a jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff because Monfils would have been safer before the police released the tape, wrote Judge Posner.

"In this case, in contrast, the danger was created by Moore, and by Moore alone; the defendants merely failed to take any steps to reduce the danger," he wrote. "They failed in their moral duty to protect members of the public from private violence, while the police in Monfils took a step - releasing the tape - that either created or greatly increased a danger of private violence."

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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