The Polanski Arrest
This effort to try to extradite Roman Polanski seems like a bad idea. However bad what the Polanski of 1977 did may be, you cannot punish him. He no longer exists, worn away by half a lifetime of subsequent experiences and choices.
Moreover, at least one of the traditional reasons for imprisoning people, to prevent them from offending again for a while, seems pointless. While I don’t follow celebrity careers closely as a rule, and I haven’t done it with Polanski, it seems that he hasn’t raped any more 13 year-olds. If it made any sense to imprison a man of 44 to teach him not to do it again, that rationale is unavailable against a man of 76 who has apparently not raped anyone for 32 years. He obviously has learned his lesson.
Nor do I agree with those who feel that we must do this to prevent the law being mocked. We allow the law to be mocked every day, one way or another. It is all a question of prosecutorial discretion. For instance, the law is mocked every day that the criminals who committed torture in this country’s name are not prosecuted.
And by the same token, the notion that Polanski’s celebrity should not drive prosecutorial choices rings hollow when we allow the political celebrity of criminals like the torturers of the previous administration to shield them from justice. What they did was at least as bad as what Polanski did.
Moreover, it seems clear that there were considerable improprieties in the way the judge handled Polanski’s case, and no easy mechanism to fix them; I would be uncomfortable imprisoning him unless there was a retroactive fixing of those errors to balance the retroactive nature of what the prosecutors seem to want to do here.
And finally, those who feel that there is a special insult or danger to women from failing to ensnare and imprison Polanski after all these years seem to be ignoring the views of the woman involved, who does not want him further punished. Surely her views ought to matter.
It just seems like a bad idea all around.