While a couple of commenters to this thread raised reasonable (if not entirely convincing to me) questions about problems with the actions of California authorities in seeking extradition, I also saw an especially weak defense that, while apparently not entirely new, I think is new to the comment section here. I’ll quote one representative example since it’s the most coherent:
A thirty-year-old crime in which the victim herself has moved on and even expressed forgiveness toward the creepy culprit? Very important. The state must prosecute now, even though it neglected innumerable instances earlier to rectify the situation. Definitely not political. Definitely on the same level as our current institutionalized torture regime or the fraudulent practices of the banksters. Justice must be served.
Even leaving aside the often made and easily refuted argument in the first sentence (this will become relevant as soon as we change our legal system to one in which crimes are solely against other private individuals and not against the people), there’s so much illogic packed in here it’s hard to know where to begin. It reminds me of the argument that one group of workers shouldn’t be allowed to organize if some group of workers out there is subject to greater exploitation.
The obvious problem with citing John Yoo and Dick Cheney and CitiBank is that there is absolutely no logical or causal relationship between them and the Polanski case whatsoever. We can release every fugitive child rapist in the world and George Bush still isn’t going to be arrested. The argument also proves too much; if taken seriously, apparently we aren’t allowed to prosecute any crimes if someone somewhere is getting away with a worse offense. In other words, the argument isn’t meant to be taken seriously. It’s just the Versailles defense of Polanski being made through other means. Nobody would argue that a garden variety child rapist who fled the jurisdiction should be exempt from legal sanction because Jay Bybee remains a federal judge. I hope.
This argument is a non-sequitur in another way as well. Even if it’s true that the extraditing Polanski is a highly suboptimal use of resources (which I don’t endorse), so what? I don’t know when it became the job of the Swiss authorities to assess the resource allocation of prosecutors in another country. Rather, their obligation is to enforce the extradition treaty they duly signed with the United States, and they have presented no serious argument that it’s not enforceable in this case. And it’s worth noting again that the (very real) injustices of the American legal system are less relevant to Polanski than most other defendants. Polanski had the resources to file an appeal with excellent legal counsel, and if the California prosecutors acted illegally the remedy was to be found in a court of law.