Showing posts with label justice. Show all posts
Showing posts with label justice. Show all posts

10 September 2020

The Self-Destruct Button



If Beale Street Could Talk film.png

I was talking to someone who shall be nameless about "certain people" who harp on how the Central Park Five should still be in jail.  Now the Central Park Five were falsely accused, and convicted, based on coerced confessions and a lot of cover-up of things like the fact that none of their DNA matched the DNA in the case.  But to "certain people" they should be still in jail because (1) if they were innocent, why did they confess in the first place? and (2) "These young men do not exactly have the pasts of angels."

My response to #2 is, "Who does?" and give them a steady stare.*

My response to #1 is, there's a long list of reasons.  The obvious reasons that they were juveniles (four were 15, one was 16), interrogated for hours, without counsel, without food (Dylan Roof was given Burger King takeout), and violence.  (One of the defendants said, "I would hear them beating up Korey Wise in the next room", and "they would come and look at me and say: 'You realize you're next.' The fear made me feel really like I was not going to be able to make it out."  Wikipedia)


And there's also the reason that (in my experience) young adolescents have a self-destruct button built into them which is inexplicable, unpredictable, and always hits at the wrong damn time in the wrong damn way.  Adolescent males are of most notorious for a tendency to direct their violence outwardly, as in every freaking school shooter we've ever seen.  But the self-destruct button hits both sexes in self-harm (cutting etc.), running away, running off with the absolute wrong/worst person possible, and/or suicide attempts, all of which are different ways of giving up on life.  Because they don't see any way out and / or they no longer give a damn.  Confessing to a crime you didn't commit is another way of doing it.


One example of this was done by Agatha Christie in Towards Zero, in which two characters - Sergeant Battle's daughter (a minor character) gives up and confesses to a crime she didn't commit, which stumps Battle.  Why would she do that?  Why?  He cannot understand - but because of his daughter, he can see and believe someone else…


And of course, in James Baldwin's If Beale Street Could Talk, Fonny is falsely accused of raping a woman, and arrested and jailed before trial.  It's a slam-dunk case for the prosecutor, because a cop places him at the scene of the crime, Fonny has priors, as does his primary witness to his innocence, and he is black. The result?  He ends up accepting a plea deal and serves time - years of time - for a crime he didn't do.

Sometimes the law works against you.  Sometimes life works against you.  Drugs, hard knocks, poverty, and other disasters - "If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all" - can easily lead to a hopelessness that can be summed up in "What the hell."  Whether it's confessing, killing, suicide, or cutting yourself to the bone.

Or running away:  99% of runaways leave home because home is a lousy place to be.  Most of them leave broke, with the clothes on their backs, and all the self-worth of a sandflea.  It makes them very vulnerable, easy targets for drug dealers, pimps, cons, gangs, cults, and anyone who shows them a hint of attention.  "What the hell.  It just doesn't matter."  To anything anyone does to them or with them.
And it's not just inmates and runaways.  I've seen a few college students hit a crisis and literally sandbag their entire lives.  One I knew was making straight A's, and then something happened (I never did find out what), and he literally quit coming to class the last 2 weeks.  I chased him down and told him if he'd come take the final, he could probably pull out a "D" (as in "D" for "done") or maybe even a "C".  And he said, sure, he would - but he didn't.  And so he flunked.  My class, every class, and dropped out of school.  No idea what happened after that.

I think the self-destruct button is far more common than any of us like to think.

Isn't that what most mid-life crises are?  Figuring, "What the hell", and going out and doing some incredibly stupid crap - from drugs to crime to skeevy relationships - that you may well be too old to survive?

And then there's long-lasting trauma.  I can't tell you how many people I'm talking to who are worn out, exhausted, and struggling with depression and even despair because of 2020 - I mean pandemic, politics, wildfires, hurricanes, and the economy all wrap up to make it hard to stay always cheerful and bright.  Not to mention the constant gaslighting.  Check out this wonderful article by DS Leiter: 

Not to mention some of our politicians.  Our own Governor, Kristi Noem, said last week at a Rotary event (after we passed the 14,000 case mark), that "I won't be changing my recommendations that I can see in the near future. I think this is where we expected we would be. None of this is a surprise. Originally, based on modeling, (our) peak day in June, we would have up to 10,000 people in the hospital in South Dakota that had COVID-19."  (Argus Leader)  In other words, until we have 10,000 people in the hospital in South Dakota, life will continue to go on as normal.  Of course, with only 880,000 people in the entire state, 10,000 hospitalized would mean the whole state has it, but what the hey.

Meanwhile, our Governor is having a great time.  Here she is at September 4th's South Dakota State Fair Bull Bash (Huron Plainsman)  Photo from Twitter:


Sigh...

Anyway, I'm certain that a lot of people are hearing [one of] the voices in their head** saying, "What the hell.  Maybe we should just go ahead and catch the damn virus and get it over with."  Except that the prognosis for 100% recovery from COVID-19 is decreasing rapidly with every new batch of information we get.  Or "What the hell.  Maybe we just won't vote - it won't do any good anyway."  Well, you can figure out your own reasons why that's bull.


All I can say is that this year, this pandemic, and life under almost any circumstances is a marathon, not a sprint.  Don't let the voices in your head get to you, and don't hit the self-destruct button.

“Nolite te Bastardes Carborundorum”***



* If you have lived an angelic past, God bless you and keep you, but we're going to run out of things to talk about.  And I probably won't believe you.

** Someday I should write a blog post about the voices, but don't expect it to be coherent.  As I tell my fellow Al-Anons, that I don't call mine "the committee" because committees are organized.

*** Yes, I know that isn't proper Latin.  😎 I like it anyway.  

15 December 2013

Irony


by Leigh Lundin

I recently read that students of today confuse the word ‘irony’ with ‘coincidence’:
“Angie’s parents like won the lottery last month and again this month. Like seriously, that’s so ironic.”
Following, you’ll find a defense attorney’s argument that’s all about irony. And sarcasm. But first, the story, which is too unrealistic for fiction.

Imagine a 16-year-old boy with fabulously wealthy if inattentive parents. Let’s call him Ethan. Barriers for ordinary people aren’t obstacles for the privileged, his family, the 1%ers.† For example, he began driving at age 13. And drinking.

Like any teen, Ethan’s all about fun. Last year, he wakes up in the bed of Daddy’s pickup with a naked unconscious 14-year-old girl. But Ethan’s wealthy and that little problem goes away.

Little Ethan and seven of his closest friends try to buy booze but they're carded and already partially inebriated. In a burst of alcohol-fueled genius, they shoplift two cases of beer from WalMart. After slamming 48, Ethan and friends hop in Ethan’s Ford F350 pickup, which isn’t legal for him to drive without an adult. Because such rules and 40mph zones aren’t meant for the likes of them, he drives 70.

Ethan Crouch © WFAA
Ethan Couch, perpetrator © WFAA

Boyles
Boyles, victims

victims
Jennings, Mitchel, victims
And loses control. The truck goes airborne, flips upside down. Ploughs into people, places, and things. Gives one of his friends permanent brain damage. Injures nine bystanders. Kills four more.

Police come. Ethan’s blood showed Valium and an alcohol content of 0.24%, three times the legal limit– except for a 16-year-old, there’s no such thing as a legal limit above zero.

But that’s a concern for ordinary people. Ethan’s not about to put up with their crap. He says “I’m outta here.” But investigators do their best Columbo and detain young Ethan.

Normally, Daddy would pull out his wallet, problem solved. But the prosecutor is one of the rabble who disdains special privileges and socialism for the wealthy. He assembles charges that could total twenty years if the judge throws the book at the lad.

And this is a tough, hang-em, Texas judge, Jean Boyd. Just last year she gave a 14-year-old kid ten years for felling and killing a man with a sucker punch. Not saying she didn't do the right thing, but that kid was poor and black, and she understands privilege and wealth.

From the prosecution’s standpoint, they probably think they have a slam dunk:
√   drunk on stolen booze
√   Valium on board
√   not licensed to drive
√   70mph in 40mph zone
√   a dozen or more injured
√   1 with permanent brain damage
√   4 people dead
√   mouthy to police
But they don’t count on the defense’s ‘affluenza’ argument and the judge going all soft at the knees over privilege and wealth.

Affluenza? What’s that? Defense psychologist Gary Miller blames the teen's behavior on the parents, claiming they give him whatever he wants including “freedoms no young person should have.” The doctor continues, “The teen never learned to say that he's sorry. … If you hurt someone, you sent him money.”

This is where irony comes in, also where the case makes headlines. According to the defense attorney, our callow fellow is the product of ‘affluenza,’ where “his family felt their wealth bought privilege and there was no rational link between behavior and consequences.” Because of this terrible upbringing, our overly indulged lad is never punished for anything, so Ethan’s attorney argues he shouldn’t be punished now.

What?

Swayed by the heart-wrenching story of the awfulness of affluenza, Judge Jean Boyd, completely unaware of the irony of her actions, grants the defense’s motion that punishment for someone never punished would be too awful for a humane society to wreak upon our wealthy youth of today.

For a tad under a half-million dollars, poor rich little Ethan will have to spend time at a fabulous, er, tough oceanside rehab resort with swimming pools, a water slide, ‘delicate’ expensive furnishings, and gourmet dining, where one can partake of “chef-prepared meals, equine therapy, martial-arts training, yoga and nature hikes,” where one can “reflect, feel engaged and have social contact,” and where the very rich can get “the unconditional love they require.”

Their executive chef from the Laguna Professional Culinary Arts also acts as private chef to the monetarily afflicted. “Part of her talent is to construct creative menus.” Really now, Julie, those French truffles are yesterday's?

When all’s said and done, I don’t want Ethan’s life ruined. But like anyone else, he should experience consequences, which the judge seems to have missed. That’s irony.



To be clear, as an ardent entrepreneur, I’m hardly anti-wealth, but I find entitlement troubling. I simply oppose socialism for the wealthy.

05 May 2013

Prohibit Singing and Bible Reading


Last March, I wrote a post about the “Failure of the 13th Juror” in which I discussed the trial of three men and a young woman who carjacked and murdered a young couple in 2007. In 2009, all four were tried and found guilty. However, the original trial judge (whom I called Judge P) was later discovered to have been using two parolees in his charge to obtain pain pills. Consequently, he was removed from the case and a new judge (whom I called Judge G) was appointed.

Over the prosecutor’s objections, Judge G granted new trials to the three men without holding a hearing, ruling that Judge P’s conduct was enough to warrant new trials. The State Appeals Court ordered him to hold hearings. He refused. So, he was removed and a new judge (I call him Judge T) was appointed. 

The prosecutor agreed that Judge P had been under the influence of something during the trial of the young woman. She was granted a new trial and again was found guilty of facilitation in the rape and killing of the female victim and sentenced to 35 years.

As for the third male, the prosecutors had argued that, although he did not participate in the crimes, he benefited from them when he used the car to run errands and stayed in the house where the young woman was raped and murdered. Judge T, acting as the 13th juror, concluded that there was no forensic evidence connecting him to the carjacking and murders and granted him a new trial.

The second male, the leader’s young brother who was sentenced to life in prison, wanted a new trial because he was beaten up in prison. Since forensic evidence connected him to the crimes, Judge T denied his request.

The ringleader’s argument for a new trial is the most interesting. His defense team argued that the jurors were influenced by religion when they convicted him. One of the jurors admitted that after dinner one night he got permission from the court staff, picked up his guitar, and began singing Christian songs. The other jurors joined in. They also read Bible verses. Since DNA tied the ringleader to the crimes, Judge T also denied his request for a new trial.

Jurors are not supposed to discuss the case outside of the jury room. I guess the defense felt that singing gospel songs and reading the Bible could be interpreted as discussing the case. I’m not sure how, but it might be possible.

Another twist to the case: the previous two judges allowed relatives to wear buttons showing pictures of two victims and sit where the jurors could see the buttons. Judge T nixed that bit of theater. The relatives must sit two or three rows back from the front bench if they choose to display the buttons.

Should singing and Bible reading during jurors’ down time be prohibited because it could influence their decision?

***

And yet another twist: The original judge, Judge P, was found guilty of misconduct in state court, dismissed from the bench, and allowed to keep his pension. The Justice Department stepped in and tried him for misprision of a felony, i.e, lying to other judges and officials to keep his drug-supplying mistress connected to her supply network. He was found guilty and sentenced to six months and loss of his pension. His defense team filed a motion to allow him to remain free pending an appeal of the conviction. However, Judge P later changed his mind and decided to do the time. His appeal could take a year or more, and he’ll  be free by the time it is completed. Still, he wants it to go forward because he could get a new trial or dismissal, even though he will have already paid the price for his actions.

Well, I guess six months in the prison of his choice, humiliation, and loss of pension could be considered a high price to pay for breaking laws he was sworn to uphold. Were the scales of justice truly balanced in his case?

28 June 2012

Justice Left to the Fates?



It is easy to question whether justice has or is being done. It seems (from a public standpoint anyway) people get away with murder, while others are being imprisoned for lesser charges.
Personally, I believe most law enforcement, judges and juries are doing the best they can. That being said, the media reports the extremes and sometimes, I am left scratching my head as to the fairness of it all.

One of the talk shows recently discussed Dr. Conrad Murray's four-year jail term after a jury found him guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Michael Jackson.

Dr. Murray's girlfriend who testified in the trial said he was reading voraciously and transporting himself to other locales through that reading instead of spending his time in a dreary prison. She also said he was quite popular with the inmates.

Anyone see something wrong with this picture?

Would I enjoy spending more time reading? Of course, I would. Think about it: no responsibilities beyond probably keeping his cell area neat and personal grooming. I'm not sure if he has any sort of manual labor to do within the prison system, but the girlfriend did not mention that in the segment.

I'm not going to commit a crime in order to allow myself more time to read or study, but it all seems unfair.


To many, Fate seems to be the ruler we dare not tempt. I'm not one of those. I am a slight risk taker. I've mentioned before, if I were on Jeopardy! (and much to my husband's chagrin) I would most likely place a large wager on my answer to Alex Trebek's Final Jeopardy question.

That doesn't mean I would tempt the Fates by committing a robbery or plotting a murder, except on paper. I am perfectly willing to do that as often as possible. My schedule is a bit more harried than Dr. Murray's, but I'm thinking, this is probably an excellent time for him to pen his own bit of fiction.
His name recognition alone would probably make it a best-seller, which also isn't fair, but it happens.

Are we the Captains of our Fate or are we ruled by the Fates? Interesting question that keep philosophers in business.

"What would you do if you absolutely wouldn't get caught?" I was asked by a fellow writer.

"That depends on my conscience, I suppose," I answered.

The thought of the cloak of invisibility conceived by J. K. Rowling in the Harry Potter series comes to mind. What would any of us do if we were concealed from everyone else? Is the answer to that a matter of our personal ethics, a rendering to a higher power or a code of justice in our society?

If you wouldn't get caught.

Would you:

* pull off a Big Heist robbery that wasn't picked up on security cameras?

* Care to be a fly on the wall (so to speak) to hear what others discuss when you aren't there?

*Paint some grafitti on a wall to show off your secret talent?

*Take a risk you wouldn't ordinarily attempt?  


For me, just being invisible to the world while someone reads one of my stories is enticing. And if I'm being honest, to see the facial expressions when an editor is deciding on my current publishing fate.

Is life unfair? Sometimes. Are we in charge of our own free will or do the Fates allow us what they believe we should have in life?

They are questions which we may never truly have the answers to until we face the final mystery of our own death and what comes next.

Until then, I may just tempt the Fates a little and carve out some personal time every day to read just one short story. I don't think that is too risky, but I know I will benefit from the experience.

That personal victory of filling our time with more reading is like taking Fate is in our own hands. If only for a few minutes a day.

That sounds fair to me.