Statute of Limitations Should Run out Soon

Troy Record [New York]
July 28, 2006

The indictment against a former area priest for the sexual abuse of a local boy more than 20 years ago brings up a topic that needs closer inspection by lawmakers.

The names of the priest and of his alleged victim are not important in the context of what has us puzzled, which is this:

Why, with all the technological advances in criminology, is there still a statute of limitations on brutal crimes or, for that matter, at all?

There was a time when the law, while maddening, made sense. Trials of cases from more than 20 years in the past were hard to conduct, as they relied strictly on faulty memories or evidence that was deteriorating due to age. Today's advances make that concern antiquated.

American law is supposed to be based on equity and justice.

Where is the equity in any case where the victim often suffers for the rest of his life while the perpetrator can breathe easy after a proscribed period of time has lapsed?

The culpability of the priest who was indicted is a matter for the courts to decide, but in the instance of any person who is sexually abused while still a child, the crime never, never goes away.

Many people are fortunate enough to get on with their lives and form normal relationships and live at peace with themselves, but the scars are always there.

And for other people, a sense of balance and adjustment is never achieved. Seeking out and prosecuting the people who commit such crimes should never come to an arbitrary end because of a statute of limitations.

In the case in the news now, only the allegation that two priests brought minors across state lines for immoral purposes is allowing investigation and potential prosecution to advance.

Again, we will not judge the merits of the current case, but the basic premise that any child abuser or murderer or rapist or even a thief can go scot-free because of a legal technicality is unacceptable.

The law has to keep pace with law enforcement.

With all the time the Legislature fritters away on inconsequential matters, we certainly hope lawmakers are smart enough and have a strong enough sense of justice to explore the tenability of eliminating the statute of limitations on all felonies.


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