It's no secret famed athletes often get preferential treatment in society. Their wealth and renown often puts them at the front of the line when it comes to privileges.
That status shouldn't extend to the justice system. Sometimes it does though.
A recent example came in 2001 when former Green Bay Packer Mark Chmura was acquitted of sexual assault despite what prosecutor Paul Bucher considered an impressive array of forensic evidence. He thought he had picked a fair jury, but soon realized he had underestimated the power of sports celebrity. "When jurors came out wearing Packers apparel, I knew I was in trouble," Bucher said.
The Hennepin County attorney's office may have a similar mountain to climb in trying former Twin Kirby Puckett on charges of sexually assaulting a woman in a restaurant restroom. Puckett is one of the greatest players to ever put on a Twins uniform and one of the best loved.
Although the appearance of a troubling dark side, including allegations of domestic abuse, has clouded Puckett's image in recent years, some legal experts believe the prosecution faces an uphill battle.
There are others who think that Puckett will be held to a higher ethical standard because of his status. And it's also possible that the alleged victim may be setting Puckett up for a lucrative civil suit.
Still, even the possibility that Puckett might have an advantage in court because he is a sports hero is damaging to our concept of a fair and impartial justice system. If it turned out to be a factor in his future acquittal, the law would strike out.
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