NYCLU Calls On U.S. Attorney’s Office To End Staged “Perp Walks”

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August 13, 2002 —  In the wake of the recent spate of “perp walks” which have accompanied the arrest and prosecution of various corporate executives by the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the NYCLU today sent a letter to James B. Comey, U.S. Attorney, urging him to end the practice of staged media events in which persons accused of crime are placed in manacles and paraded through a gauntlet of photographers and television cameras.

Arthur Eisenberg, Legal Director of the NYCLU, noted that “these choreographed ‘perp walks’ have been found by the federal Court of Appeals to constitute unreasonable seizures in violation of the Fourth Amendment in circumstances where such perambulatory exercises serve no independent and justifiable law enforcement function. The practice seems calculated simply to cause public humiliation and embarrassment of the accused. Public humiliation within the community is, of course, an historic form of punishment. However, under our legal system, an accused individual is presumed to be innocent and any punishment that is to be imposed must follow conviction, not precede it.”

Beth Haroules, Staff Attorney at the NYCLU, further observed that “in addition to violating the Fourth Amendment and in addition to imposing the punishment of public humiliation prior to trial, these events created a media spectacle which makes it more difficult to protect the ‘fair trial’ rights of criminal defendants.”

Click here to read the letter.