Should there be a reasonable time limit for capturing fugitives?

Computers are a blessing and a curse. Computer records are always fresh and they never expire. In the past few years I’ve seen several cases of fugitives from the 1970’s and even earlier that were found living productive and crime free lives. Something tripped a flag in a computer and they are arrested. The system felt obligated to throw them in prison.

It wasn’t like this before the computer age. People often emigrated to new countries and started new lives. Mistakes they made previously were long buried and forgotten. A fresh start could often result in very productive lives. The French Foreign Legion was known for giving prior criminals a chance at a new life. Australia was a former penal colony. A lot of those criminals became the founding members of that country. The United States had a lot of immigrants with questionable pasts.

I believe that some people can change for the better. Crimes are sometimes a result of the environment you live in. If a person takes advantage of a fresh start then why should they be dragged back to prison twenty-five or thirty years later?

There are people that will always be a danger to society. They will commit new crimes no matter how many chances they are given. These are the people that rotate in/out of prison throughout their lives. Real criminals will commit crimes no matter where they live or how old they get.

Shouldn’t there be a reasonable time limit for capturing fugitives? For example, twenty-five years? If someone has lived a respectable and crime free life that long then he is rehabilitated. He’s not a danger to anyone.

The most recent case is George Wright. He would have finished his prison sentence decades ago. Reading the article, the man has lived a very good life in Portugal. Raised a family, held multiple jobs. His criminal behavior is all in the past. What’s the point in dragging him back to America and putting him in prison? A 68 year old man that will die anyway in another ten or so years.

The crime of murder can never be erased. But, most murderers do get released from prison. Society isn’t willing to execute every murderer. They are released and hopefully they won’t commit more crimes.

This guy has proven he’s rehabilitated. Why not leave him alone? I think there should be a reasonable time frame for capturing fugitives. Certainly 25 years is long enough. This guy’s last crimes were forty years ago.

There is. It’s called “statute of limitations”. It doesn’t apply to murder and other heinous crimes for obvious reasons.

You don’t get a free pass from paying your debt to society just because you are good at hiding.

I voted other, because the time limit, if any, should be related to the nature of the crime. However, once apprehended, if the life spent on the lam shows indications of rehabilitation, that should be considered in the remainder of the punishment, if any. For murder, even if the circumstances and the life after escape might warrant lenience, the fugutive should still be found. The crime is too great to simply erase the record of it. The statute of limitations laws in existence probably do a reasonable job of balancing all these factors now.

There are problem cases like Roman Polanski. I think it would be best for CA to arrange to have Polanski turn himself in, plead out, pay a fine, make public apologies and admissions, perform some public service, but not be incarcerated. This would be a better outcome than him successfully avoiding extradition for the rest of his life.

Depends on the crime, among other things. Not for murder, though. Since that’s in the OP, I’ll vote no.

This. There are already limits, and I’m fine with the ones in place.

When the fugitive flees, he commits a new crime, and he bugs out on the original sentence. It’s not part of the law that running away makes you immune from punishment.

This man was given a 15- to 30-year sentence for murder in 1962. He probably would have been paroled by 1977. Certainly by 1982 he would be out.

He’s been in his own personal prison since escaping in 1970. Always looking over his shoulder. Forty-one years of fear and regret for the past.

I think he’s punished himself far more than society would have.

INstead of serving his sentence in a timely manner, this perp had 41 years of freedom to start a family and raise children. He used all his good years. Now in his dotage he hopes for an easy sentence in his new homeland. Let the court decide how much more time to serve. Courts can and do consider good behavior.

of course. The absence of statute of limitations is just another example of injustice and absence of humanism in modern American law enforcement, right up there with 3 strikes laws, war on drugs, methods of child support enforcement and similar.

Modern Russian law fixes 15 years as statute of limitations for most violent crimes. For regular murder I think it’s just 10 years. Whereas law enforcement institutions in Russia have degenerated greatly since Soviet times, nevertheless there is still some amount of good sense left over from the erstwhile more functional civilization.

There is also the problem that if you are willing to forgive any crime as long as someone is good enough at hiding, that it pretty much becomes an incentive to try as hard as you can to escape from prison. So they might tack a few more years on your sentence for each escape attempt? Oh well. People will forget about your crimes after a while, so no biggie.

Also, do we really know the guy was law abiding during his time living off the radar? There are plenty of cases where someone appeared to be a model citizen but turned out to be doing heinous things that nobody suspected (like the Green River Killer, Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy for starters). It looks like he was drifting around among several different countries over a period of years - how do we really know if he was committing other crimes that just weren’t traced to him because of his drifter status?
Notice that he helped hijack a plane AFTER he had busted out of prison, so you can’t exactly say that prison “taught him a lesson”. It is quite possible that the only reason that he hasn’t done anything illegal or violent lately is because he simply hasn’t felt it was necessary to get what he wants. Maybe tomorrow he will decide he needs to kill again.

A person who is willing to commit a robbery, kill another person, and hijack a plane is already far more violent than the average person. I definitely would NOT take it for granted that someone who is capable of that level of violence feels any remorse or guilt about what they did, such that they had “already suffered enough” over it or anything like that. There are a certain number of anti-social people out there who are clever enough to know that they should mimic feelings of regret to get people on their side, but really do not feel normal human emotions.

I do not have any sympathy for people who commit major crimes like murder and then end up getting thrown in prison at an advanced age. I know if I were the family member of the murder victim I’d want to see the murderer die in prison, instead of seeing them get away with playing a sympathy card with “Oh I’m so harmless and frail and old now”. That’s exactly what an anti-social predator would do to manipulate people.

This is exactly how it works in *Code Penal *countries, though. IIRC the statute of limitations is a Roman principle.

It really boils down to what the goal of imprisonment is: rehabilitation, protecting society, punishment, deterrent, or whatever.

If it’s just rehabilitation, our prison system is f’d up.

What was the life of his victim like during the past 40 years?

Ah, it didn’t exist, because George Wright stole that life.

I’m sorry, but I do not believe the criminal justice system is supposed to solely be about rehabilitation. I do believe we should focus more on rehabilitation than we do, so that people leaving prison can be reintegrated into society. However, no matter how much I think rehabilitation is important from a policy perspective, let us not ignore the reason we have laws is because of humanity’s desire for justice. When someone commits a wrong, the public conscience cries out that something be done about it. In ages past this would manifest in a lynching or something of that nature. As we’ve matured as a species we’ve moved justice to the hands of the State, who is supposed to analyze the matter impartially to try and insure the right person is punished for the crime, and in a manner consistent with established and published rules that everyone is supposed to which everyone is supposed to adhere.

We don’t send people to prison just to rehabilitate them, or just to protect society, I’d say the root of why we have laws at all is because of mankind’s need to see wrongs addressed in some manner.

Why were people so pissed when Nixon got pardoned by Ford? I mean, Nixon was out of office, there was no chance he would ever commit those crimes again. He was no threat to society. Why were people mad that Nixon was pardoned? They were mad because a criminal went unpunished for his crimes because of who he was, because he was powerful he was essentially above punishment for his crimes. No one cared that Nixon wasn’t a threat to society, they were mad that he never had to pay for his crimes.

I don’t care what kind of life George Wright has lived, what I care about is he took something nothing can ever restore: someone else’s life. Because of that he should be punished, and justice demands he be punished in the manner that the court said he should be punished. Not by “having to look over his shoulder” every day, the laws are there for a reason and just because you’re good at escaping justice doesn’t mean we should give you a prize.

We have statute of limitations in America, but they are to protect people against being prosecuted for a crime that happened so long ago that a proper trial couldn’t be conducted.

In America the statute of limitations do not protect you if you’ve already been convicted in a court, they are designed to protect you from being charged with a crime that was committed 40 years ago and where you won’t be able to perhaps find all of your alibi witnesses and things of that nature due to the passage of time.

Is it really the case in “code penal” countries that once sentenced if you escape, you only have to stay hidden for a certain period of time and all is forgiven? I find that somewhat shocking.

Prescription” is present in all aspects of Napoleonian Law. It works for Civil matters (the famous *prescription trentenaire * a.k.a live for thirty years in a place you dont own with no one claiming its property and you can claim it as yours), and for Penal ones. The principle is that after thirty years, it causes far more harm to society to prosecute than to let it go. There’s also the reasons you have already mentioned but the main point is Javert-like behaviour is more negative than positive.

I understand the OP was about the situation in the US, was just adding the bit about Napoleonian Law systems for perspective.

And, yes, if you manage to continually evade arrest for the length of the prescription time (linked to the time you’d face if convicted), once you reach it, you’re scott free. But as that already has been pointed out earlier, that means living for decades like that. Few criminals evade police continuously for thirty years, (if we’re talking about the most serious offences).

I for one have very little confidence that a 17yr old black kid could actually get a fair trial in Patterson New Jersey in 1962… He pled guilty but what exactly does that mean?
If you look at TJ English’s latest book “Savage City” where he details the events behind the “career girls murder”, plus take into account events behind the Black Liberation Army and the Black Panthers in regard to COINTELPRO nothing is as easy as it looks…

Not the mention Ruben “Hurricane” Carter… i think jurisprudence in the criminal justice arena in the 1950’s and 1960’s in not exactly a bright and shining moment in the US.

Very interesting comments so far. I was curious to gauge the current feelings about crime. This message board is one of the more liberal ones I visit and it’s interesting to hear from the Left. I “know” what the Tea Party folks would do to this guy. They’d throw him in prison until he dies. :wink:

I grew up in the 70’s and at that time Prison Reform and Rehabilitation were huge social issues. That’s why I said this guy would have been paroled by his fifteen year mark. It’s was a different time and attitude about crime. The pendulum swung towards harsher sentences and punishment in the Reagan years and it’s never changed since.

I see the need for punishment. It just bothers me that the only reason this guy was caught is the modern computer systems. Up until the 1950’s you could still create a new life for yourself. If you stayed out of trouble then the chances of every getting caught were almost zero.

I recall about fifteen years ago they caught a fugitive in Washington DC. He had driven a limo for over thirty years using his brothers name. Lots of important politicians had ridden in this guys limo. He had committed some pretty serious crimes when he was young. But had lead a very upstanding life for all those other years. I can’t recall whatever happened to him. He was pretty old when they discovered his past.

I keep saying this guy created a new life for himself. Others say he was hiding. Interesting…

When I first read the thread title, I was imagining a case more like this one. No murder or violence, arrested during a drug deal back in 1975. But even then, I’d think the proper approach would be to take her years of non-criminal life into account at a parole hearing, not just having a time limit.

Actually, some countries do have statutes of limitations for murder. Thailand is one. Twenty years. This has recently increased already-tense relations with Saudi Arabia, because the murder of some Saudi diplomats in Bangkok in 1990 lapsed last year, so the local police aren’t bothering with it any more.

Side note: The murders were related to this complicated jewlery scam that began when a Thai gardener climbed into the palace of a Saudi prince through a second-story window, busted open a safe with a screwdriver and stole some 200 pounds of jewelry and made off to Thailand with them. The Thai authorities recovered the gems and returned them … or so it was thought. Seems the wife of the police official in charge of the investigation appeared at a public society function wearing what looked to be one of the necklaces that was part of the haul. The Saudis checked what had been returned and found them to be clever fakes. Other related murders, of both Saudis and Thais, have occurred, and that police official is on death row for involvement in some of them. But except for the odd piece or two like what that wife got caught wearing, the real gems have never been recovered and the case remains solved. The common belief is that a certain member of a Family That Must Not Be Named has them, meaning it never will be solved either. Because of all of this, Saudi Arabia has banned its citizens from travel to Thailand.

It still seems you don’t get what I’m saying.

From what I’m reading prescription sounds just like our Statute of Limitations–it is a limit on how long the government has to charge someone for a crime. The criminal in the case that is the subject of this thread had already been arrested, tried, and sent to prison. He had spent 7 years in prison and then escaped, in our system he isn’t retried when he is captured, he has already been tried, instead he is being put back to serve his original sentence.