What he said in real time: This Monday night, we happened to catch Professor Dershowitz chatting with Don Lemon.
Mainly, they were discussing free speech, on campus and elsewhere. At one point, though, the thoughtful professor said this:
DERSHOWITZ (4/18/16): As an liberal Democrat, I wrote against the crime bill in 1994 and 1995. It was a disaster and I was opposed to it then and I'm glad there's a debate about it. Just don't stop other people from expressing different views.We're not saying that statement is wrong. We just thought you might like to see what we found when we fact-checked Professor Dershowitz's claim.
For the record, Dershowitz was involved in the O.J. trial during much of that period. No one can say that he was trying to get everyone locked up!
That said, we haven't found anything he wrote in opposition to the crime bill. We did find these remarks from Crossfire in February 1994, Chief Justice Sununu presiding:
SUNUNU (2/16/94): Alan Dershowitz, how come it's the rich limousine liberals that seem to have the toughest time understanding that if you get habitual crime committers off the street, then you keep them from committing crimes?Professor Dershowitz wanted to spring the 80-year-olds so he could lock up the 20-year-olds! We're not sure Lemon got that sense from his thoughtful remarks Monday night.
DERSHOWITZ: I want to get the habitual offenders off the streets. I'm very tough on crime. This is not a liberal-conservative issue.
SUNUNU: Sure, it is.
DERSHOWITZ: I'm very anxious to see the maximization of getting people off the street. Three strikes, you're out will increase crime. It is not tough, it is not smart. Let me tell you why it'll increase crime—
SUNUNU: How about four strikes, you're out?
DERSHOWITZ: Any number of those strikes, you're out, any kind of mandatory life imprisonment. Let me tell you why.
No matter what point you get them off, if the goal is to put them in jail between the ages of 50 and 80, and remember, life expectancy for prisoners exceeds that of life expectancy for the rest of us. So we're talking about supporting people in prison during their 50s, 60s, 70s, and even 80s.
The problem is, people don't commit crimes when they're 50, 60, 70, and 80, at least not violent crimes, and for every cell that's taken by an 80-year-old, that means there's a 20-year-old who can't be put in a cell. So I think "three strikes, you're out" is not smart. It's not tough, it's just kind of bumper sticker criminology and it won't work.
SUNUNU: You've gotten them off the streets at a time when they are most likely to commit crimes. You've put them away for a long time—
DERSHOWITZ: I want to do all that. I just don't want to put them away mandatorily for life. I don't want them in jail when they're 70 and 80 years old. I'm happy to have them in jail when they're 25 and when they're 30 and when they're 35 and 40, but I want to have some discretion to let them out so that the 20-year-olds, the guys who are out there robbing the convenience stores and killing the Ma and Pa owners, the really violent people, are the ones who are put in those jail cells, not the octogenarians who, 30 years ago, may have had three offenses separated out by 15 years. It just makes no sense.
SUNUNU: You've now got the geriatrics argument against bringing people who are habitual criminal offenders into prison permanently.
DERSHOWITZ: No, I want to put them— John, you're missing my point. I just don't want to leave them in there until they're 80 years old.
Final thought: What absolute creeps those Clintons were to ignore this real-time advice!