Thursday, January 31, 2013

Indiana: Pardon for the Deer Saviours?

Court: "...the law supposes that your wife acts under your direction"

Mr. Bumble: "If the law supposes that, the law is an ass - an idiot."
- Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist (1838)

Sometimes, those with little interest in law and politics ask, "Why even have a pardon power? If you can't do the time, don't do the crime. Blah. Blah. Blah." Read on curious readers. Read on !

Jeff and Jennifer Counceller are looking at a trial this March. Their crime? USA Today reports that they "found an injured fawn, nursed it back to health and raised it to adulthood with the intention of releasing it to the wild." But, before all of that could happen, they were charged with "illegal possession of a white-tailed deer" (a misdemeanor), and could be sent to jail 60 days and fined as much as $500.

Gov. Mike Pence (R) says the State's Department of Natural Resources "acted appropriately" in prosecuting the offense. But Speaker Brian Bosma is dropping this not-so-subtle hint:
"Well, you know laws are imperfect, and people are imperfect. So occasionally a commutation of sentence or pardon might be in order in certain matters." 
Mr. Counceller is a police officer and his wife is a nurse. The deer was in a pen when it was discovered by a "state conservation officer." It is reported that the case:
has spurred a burgeoning grassroots social-media campaign. A Facebook page has garnered almost 37,000 likes; a petition drive more than 30,000 signatures; and a legal defense fund for the Councellers more than $2,000. The thrust of the uproar — which resulted in calls to The Star from around Indiana, a dozen states and Canada — has been sympathy for the situation the Councellers faced when confronted with a wounded animal. Another thread, almost as strong, has been people expressing concern that this is an example of government heavy handedness, of a failure to use discretion rather than hitting the Councellers over the head with legal statutes. 
The Councellers have also claimed that they did not know it was a crime to keep the deer and they never tried to "hide" what they were doing. They also sought (and were denied) a State "rescue permit." On the other hand, Department of Natural Resources says:
... wild deer can carry parasites and diseases that can be transferred to humans. And it also promotes the idea that wild animal populations should remain wild. 
See complete story here. See related Facebook page here.

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