Minority Report: Brandenburg, PreCrime and e-Discovery

I’m not sure whether I can write about the shooting of a Congresswoman and nineteen others apolitically; but I’ll make an attempt to do so. Like most of you, I’ve followed the progression of the case, noting various profiles of the gunman that emerged – and the scramble of politicians to exploit one position or another for political gain. What struck me most was the public – and very prolific – profile of the gunman that has emerged. Usually, we’re dealing with a crime or civil wrong, then we go about the business of accumulating evidence after the fact. However, in this case, there was ample evidence that this person was someone who authorities should have been aware of – or have been made aware of by those who crossed paths with him. There’s just one problem:

We don’t arrest people for crimes they haven’t committed, yet.

But what can – and should – we as a society do in these situations, especially when we have the evidence? I’m not saying this tragedy could have been prevented, but at least this person should have been on a few more radar screens.

Now, as to the politicization of the event, I defer to the 1st Amendment of the Constitution. Rhetoric certainly may rise to the level of incitement. But we have the Brandenburg standard and I see a phrase missing from many of the discussions; “imminent lawless action”. Is Sarah Palin’s 'crosshair' map in the news because it’s relevant or because it pulls more eyeballs and sells more newspapers?

If I were still in law school, I suspect a professor would have posed that question. There is no honest assessment without proper context.