Hey, look, when you write a newspaper column, sometimes you get to roll out an idea, claim it was all yours and then name it after yourself. I have no clue if other columnists have done this, but I’ve done it twice and now I’m putting my name to a third, as described in my latest column for The Baltimore Sun and inspired by the indictment of Baltimore’s top prosecutor, Marilyn Mosby.
Before I get to the Rodricks Pledge, here are the other two things I named after myself.
Rodricks’ Law: This is a variation on Parkinson’s Law, which states that “work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” Rodricks’ law states: “Prisoner population expands to fill the space available for them.” Basically, if we build it, they will come. I realize this sounds like wishful thinking — fewer cells mean fewer prisoners and, thus, less overall crime. But we went too long the other way: Too many prisons and the highest incarceration rate in the world. Fortunately, our whole approach to drugs, prosecution and sentencing is starting to change — not in every state, but in many. The last thing we need is more prison space.
Rodricks Plea: Guilty But Mostly Stupid. I have been chronicling cases of dumb crooks for decades, for example: The bank robber who wrote a stickup note on personalized stationery; the purse-snatch suspect who yelled, “That’s not what I said!” when asked to recite a certain phrase for a police lineup. It’s the only kind of deviance we can laugh about: felons self-foiling, miscreants who mess up on the job, when the only victims are the fools who attempt to commit a crime.
Of course, the Rodricks Plea has never been made an official part of criminal procedure. As far as I know, not a single lawmaker has been willing to suggest that it become a legal option for defendants — that is, an admission of guilt with an acknowledgment that the defendant is sufficiently stupid to warrant some mercy by the sentencing judge. I’m not saying that we make mercy mandatory, or that judges be required to consider stupidity as a mitigating factor when it comes to punishment. But, in some circumstances, it might be appropriate. Moreover, if a defendant is contrite and willing to admit stupidity — not an easy thing for the masculine sociopath — then he deserves some credit for the self-awareness a Rodricks Plea suggests; it bodes well for his rehabilitation.
Rodricks Pledge: Inspired by the Jan. 13 2022 federal indictment of Marilyn Mosby, the Baltimore State’s Attorney, this is something every public official — in Maryland and elsewhere — needs to read, swear to and sign before they take office:
“I fully understand that anything and everything I do, in public or private, could easily cause me to become the subject of gossip and intense scrutiny by my political opponents, the news media, inspectors, auditors, state prosecutors and federal prosecutors. I understand that We have a long history of political corruption and an equally long history of aggressive prosecutors who seldom lose a case. I acknowledge that, in the Information Age, the feds have a lot of tools at their disposal to catch me in the act of a financial crime. Should I attempt to do anything sleazy or stupid, it might cause me to be indicted, arrested, imprisoned or sent into low company. And I know what’s sleazy and what’s stupid, so help me God.”
Or something like that. It’s a work in progress.