CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Sunday, September 7, 2008

Beyond guilt or innocence, remember public safety

THE shooting rampage in Skagit County raises basic issues of public safety. The tragedy is a blatant challenge to assumptions of how well civil society can protect its citizens, and isolate those who are a danger to themselves and others.

As murder suspect Isaac Zamora begins his journey through the criminal-justice system, a parallel proceeding should be initiated by lawmakers in Olympia to examine the failings of laws and institutions intended to protect the public.

Legislative hearings are necessary to acquaint legislators with the seeming disconnect between mental health laws and law enforcement.

The grisly details of the horrific day in the small community of Alger in rural Skagit County will be examined in court. The tragedy unfolded around seven different houses, and claimed five lives. Among them was Skagit County sheriff's deputy Anne Jackson. Two others were injured. A subsequent car chase resulted in the shooting death of a motorist on Interstate 5 and the wounding of two others.

In the aftermath of this bloody spree, the suspect will be ably and dutifully represented. Trials sort out legal guilt or innocence for specific acts.

The role of the Legislature is to determine how rules, regulations and procedures failed to protect a half dozen innocent lives. Zamora had dozens of previous run-ins with the law. For years his erratic moods and volcanic anger scared the daylights out of the residents of Alger. He obviously needed help that he did not receive. An equally compelling need existed to protect his family, friends and neighbors from his dangerous behavior. [Mark Godsey]

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