There was a recent uproar over 2 prison escapees very close to where I was born and raised in Upstate New York. Richard Matt and David Sweat, convicted murderers serving time at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, NY, escaped on June 5, 2015.
The escapees were aided by Joyce Mitchell, a prison employee who supervised Matt and Sweat in the prison’s tailor shop. Mitchell apparently had a sexual relationship with Matt and assisted the murderers’ escape with hacksaw blades, eyeglasses with lights affixed to them and drill bits. In addition, Mitchell was supposed to meet up with Matt and Sweat after their escape, have them murder her husband, and drive them to Mexico. Unfortunately for Matt and Sweat, Mitchell failed to meet them after their escape and the convicts were forced to elude authorities on foot. Clearly, Mitchell is akin to those utterly incomprehensible women who want to marry Charles Manson; however, she had second thoughts and checked into a hospital instead of meeting up with the escapees. Mitchell was arrested and charged with the felony of 1st Degree Promoting Prison Contraband and the misdemeanor of 4th Degree Criminal Facilitation.
Matt and Sweat were also reportedly unwittingly aided by a prison guard named Gene Palmer, who was arrested and charged with Promoting Dangerous Prison Contraband, Destroying Evidence and official misconduct. Furthermore, 12 Dannemora prison employees in all have been suspended pending a complete investigation of the escape.
Matt and Sweat were on the run from June 5, 2015 until Matt was shot and killed on June 26, 2015 and Sweat was shot and captured on June 28, 2015. According to police, Matt was armed with a shotgun but Sweat was unarmed. Perhaps the most surprising development in all this brouhaha is the public’s reaction to the police shooting of Matt and Sweat. Some argue that shooting Matt and Sweat was unnecessary, as they did not pose an “imminent threat.” In their estimation, it is a question of whether we want to legally empower law enforcement to use lethal force at their own discretion without any evidence of immediate threat or violence.
The argument against the police shooting of Matt and Sweat assumes they have the same constitutional rights as the general population. However, as convicts, their rights are suspended or severely curtailed: they do not have freedom of assembly, free speech, the right to keep and bear arms, the right against search and seizure, the privilege of voting, etc., and their due process rights are notably curtailed. When we speak of Matt and Sweat, we are not speaking of ordinary citizens or suspects; rather, we are speaking of convicted, escaped murderers. Rules of engagement for fugitive convicted murderers differ from rules of engagement for average citizens or suspects, and rightfully so.
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