The “justice” system killed this guy for stealing $14
The “justice” system killed this guy for stealing $14 by Simon Black
During the winter of 1796, a Frenchman named Eugene Francois Vidocq was sentenced to eight years of hard labor after being convicted of document forgery.
It was a remarkably harsh punishment for a non-violent crime, especially in Vidocq’s case as there was not even a victim.
Yet this took place during the chaos that ensued after the French Revolution. The scars from the Reign of Terror still remained.
Long sentences were typical, and Vidocq could have just as easily been put to the guillotine. There were countless other examples just like him.
Victor Hugo’s protagonist Jean Valjean from Les Miserables is loosely based on Vidocq.
In the novel, Valjean is sentenced to five years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread so that his family wouldn’t starve.
It wasn’t much better in the rest of Europe.
By the end of the 1700s in England, the number of capital offences stood at 220.
Back then you could be hanged for stealing any item worth more than 12 pence, about $20 in today’s money.
This is one of the many reasons why so many peasants fled their home countries in Europe to come to America.
America stood for liberty and opportunity… not oppression and punishment.
In fact, the US Constitution even had special amendments forbidding cruel and unusual punishment, and enshrining fairness, justice, and due process.
And the Constitution itself only listed three original federal crimes: counterfeiting, treason, and piracy.
But a lot has changed over the past two centuries.
Today there are thousands of federal crimes, not to mention countless rules and regulations at federal, state, and local levels that carry jail time.
There’s the case of Palo Alto resident Kay Leibrand, for example, a 61-year old cancer patient and grandmother who was arrested a few years ago because her xylosma bushes were more than two feet tall.
Or Ansche Hedgepeth, a young girl who was arrested in Washington DC for eating French fries at a metro station when she was just 12-years old.