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

10 January 2019

A Dream of Justice

by Eve Fisher
“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.” - G. K. Chesterton
Of course, that was back in the days when dragons were dangerous, fire-snorting monsters who ate everyone who came near them.  When they were evil.  Now, dragons are fun and cuddly and cute and everyone wants one.  Or they're your soul mate and enhance your sex life, as in Anne McCaffrey.

NOTE:  I loved Dragonflight and Dragonquest, so no, I'm not a dragon hater!

But what I want to point out is that you can't understand what Chesterton was talking about if you don't understand that dragons were once a mortal terror.  When dragons were, indeed, a very good analogy for the monsters and terrors that eat through childhood.

And it's not just dragons, it's fairy tales as well.  Revisionist histories of the Wicked Witch or the Evil Stepmother or the Big Bad Wolf as misunderstood victims may be intriguing to adults, but I don't think they're good for children.  Children know there is evil in the world, evil that the adults may or may not be shielding them from, evil that is threatening to their very core, evil that they can't always name (in some families, that's too dangerous) or define (some evil starts before we even have words for it).  And they need - at a young age, before they're old enough to read about Voldemort or Sauron - to have examples of evil being fought and conquered.  I did.  I desperately needed the hope that someday all evil would fall.  I needed justice.  And, imho, without a firm grasp of right and wrong, of goodness and evil, there is no real sense of justice.
“Detective stories contain a dream of justice. They project a vision of a world in which wrongs are righted, and villains are betrayed by clues that they did not know they were leaving. A world in which murderers are caught and hanged, and innocent victims are avenged, and future murder is deterred...  Detective stories keep alive a view of the world which ought to be true. Of course people read them for fun, for diversion, as they do crossword puzzles. But underneath they feed a hunger for justice, and heaven help us if ordinary people cease to feel that.”
Thrones, Dominations - Dorothy L. Sayers & Jill Paton Walsh
In other words, we don't really want a Casablanca where Rick refuses to stick out his neck, and settles down to another bottle while the fascists take Victor Laszlo and Ilsa away to a concentration camp.  Or a Maltese Falcon where Sam Spade goes off with the Fat Man and Cairo to find the loot.    

Black-and-white film screenshot of several people in a nightclub. A man on the far left is wearing a suit and has a woman standing next to him wearing a hat and dress. A man at the center is looking at the man on the left. A man on the far right is wearing a suit and looking to the other people.

Which is why I've been bothered for a long time about the shift from a hunger for justice to a hunger for personal gain.  A great enthusiasm for evading the law.  A grand revival of the seven deadly sins:  pride, envy, greed, gluttony, lust, wrath, and sloth (a/k/a apathy).  A celebration of them.  A sense that everyone does it, you're a fool if you don't, and compassion (for the downtrodden, the victims, the poor conned bastards) is weakness.  That noir - which I admit is entertaining on screen - is a place you'd actually want to live.
This really struck home when I read the SCOTUS blog about Nielsen v. Preap.  This is a case about "whether the federal authorities must detain immigrants who had committed crimes, often minor ones, no matter how long ago they were released from criminal custody... [T]he sticking point appeared to be how to define what would be a reasonable period of time for immigration agents to detain a person whose criminal sentence is completed.”  (Currently waiting on SCOTUS' decision.)  SCOTUS Blog

Now what really interested me about this was reading the comments (on other websites) - always a mistake - where a large number of people stopped at the word "immigrants" (or "aliens", depending on which article you read) and said, "They're illegal - boot them out."  (Cleaned up for extreme profanity, and in some cases, death threats.)  

And by saying that, they missed the most obvious thing in the world:

Everyone has legal rights, and should have legal rights, including an attorney and a hearing after an arrest for one simple reason:  Quid pro quo.  Some day an American citizen might be arrested in a foreign country (it has been known to happen; like in Russia; like right now), and they may model their legal behavior on ours, and deny an American citizen their right to a hearing, whether it's for something as minor as a parking ticket to as major as murder.

It’s also why we have:

(1) Diplomatic Immunity – not because their diplomats are so charming, but because we want to protect our own overseas from reprisal (political or otherwise) such as arrests, imprisonment, torture, and "death in custody";
NOTE:  This is also why the case of Jamal Khashoggi was/is important.  A United States resident, brutally murdered by a Saudi Arabian hit squad in the Saudi embassy in Turkey.  So far the main objections to pursuing this from our current administration is money.  As the TV Evangelist Pat Robertson said, "You’ve got $100 billion worth of arms sales...we cannot alienate our biggest player in the Middle East.”  (Citation)  
NOTE 2:  The arms deal is so far only "letters of intent," and a suspiciously timed 100 million dollar payment - not for arms, but "to support U.S. stabilization efforts in northeastern Syria."  Granted, the price has gone up from 30 pieces of silver, but I still object.  
NOTE 3:  And Khashoggi's murder isn't about a journalist, per se. It's about the fact that Saudi Arabia felt free to kill someone in their embassy on foreign soil, in the same way that Russia felt free to kill at least six people on British soil, and both countries are getting away with it.  Murder is murder.  And when it's allowed to happen without consequences - Well, we're going to see more of them. And they will happen here. What will we do when Americans are killed on American soil with nerve agents like A-234 or radioactive polonium?   
(2) The Geneva Conventions for humanitarian treatment of soldiers and other POWs – to protect our own soldiers and civilians. And, BTW, why calling enemy soldiers “unlawful enemy combatants” and thus evading the Geneva Conventions is a very dangerous precedent that will, undoubtedly, come back to haunt us some day.  Which leads directly to


Guantanamo Bay, where the imprisonment of "unlawful enemy combatants" is currently ongoing (40 prisoners are still there, having been imprisoned for 16 years and counting), without trial for years, subject to extraordinary rendition (i.e., transfer to a cooperative foreign country for enhanced interrogation, i.e., torture) - and with no exit in sight for those who remain.  Simply put, precedent is a dangerous thing:  again, some day captured American soldiers and civilians may find themselves on foreign soil in similar prisons.

Humans have worked hard for years, decades, centuries, to create a world in which the weak are protected from the strong, where might does not automatically make right, and where we live under the rule of law.  Where democracies make it possible for everyone to have a say as to how they are governed.  Where civil and human rights are granted to everyone (because otherwise, there are no rights, just privilege, and capricious privilege at that).  Where peace is pursued on a national and international basis.

But maybe it's been too long since World War 1 and World War 2.  Because apparently there's a strong temptation, these days, to Dehiscence.  Deconstruction.  Destruction.  
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity....
   - W. B. Yeats, first stanza of "The Second Coming"
   Donne painted by Isaac Oliver

In other words, every man for himself.  But it's not true.  John Donne had a better take, from a time that was no more war-ridden, and much more plague-ridden, short-lived, and less comfortable than ours: 
"No man is an island, entire of itself; 
every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. 
If a clod be washed away by the sea, 
Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, 
as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: 
any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, 
and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
John Donne Meditation XVII



And the best take of all is from 750 BC, from a time of civil war, evil kings, obscene wealth in the midst overwhelming poverty, and a terrible need for social justice:

"But let justice roll down like waters 
And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." Amos 5:24


NOTE:  For those who are wondering what I'm doing with 2 blog posts in a row, I'm filling in for my old pal Brian Thornton, who's sick with the crud.  GET WELL SOON, BRIAN!!!

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

by Louis Willis

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?




by Deborah Elliott-Upton


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.