Trial By Jury - A Cherished Right

It is hard to feel badly for William Oscar Harris. While under indictment for fraud Mr. Harris sent phony financial documents appearing to create liens and judgments against the judges and prosecutors involved in the trial.

When he refused to obey the court's order to stop, Mr. Harris was held in civil contempt and confined. This has not deterred Mr. Harris.

He was tried, convicted, and sentenced for the fraud charges. But the criminal sentence has been held in abeyance because Mr. Harris has not stopped his harrassing conduct. Under these facts his continued and indefinite incarceration for civil contempt is not unjustified. After all, he holds the keys to his prison cell.

That the prisoner challenged the contempt order reminded me of a child who would kill his parents and then plead for mercy as an orphan. In that regard, based on the facts of this case I understand the majority's absence of sympathy.

Then again when the facts are against you then argue the law, and here Mr. Harris argued the indefinite confinement violates due process. On that note, I could not help but think bad facts make bad law. Here the facts about Mr. Harris are certainly bad. But judges and courts are not above the law. This defendant has been incarcerated for over five years without a trial by jury. If this incarceration is to continue, it should only be upon the judgment of his peers.

United State v. Harris (3d Cir. 2009)