ellen mcbee

She's always up to something…

Justice…part 1 of who knows how many?

on October 31, 2015

So, again for those who know me in person, you all know that I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot. I was on a jury here locally this summer for someone accused of a crime (actually, 4 crimes: kidnapping plus criminal sexual penetration times 3). This young man had been arrested in March of 2013 and did not come to trial until August 2015. Meanwhile, he had been kept on house arrest for 19 months.

Now, this was not my first brush with the criminal justice system. I’ve never been arrested, myself (I go to all the wrong parties). But, in no particular order, I witnessed a fatal car accident in which the police were accused of chasing down the driver; had a friend in college who disappeared and whose husband is serving a sentence for kidnapping and murdering her; an in-law who was arrested and jailed for a drug offense; an in-law who was shot and killed by a spouse who also went to prison; a friend who was accused of sexually assaulting a minor (this friend was found not guilty of everything but is still treated as though he were guilty); another person in my life who was accused of stalking a woman. Anyway, I disclosed what needed to be disclosed; but I think you can’t get to be as old as I am without knowing people who these things happened to. Also, I think that at some point these things level out; you really do look at everything with an open mind.

And let me clarify: some of the above were guilty, and they absolutely did what they were accused of doing. Some were innocent but paid for being accused. And that’s mostly what I’m hung up on at the moment.

I keep falling into telling the story of the young man whose jury I was on, but I would really rather cut to the chase. No, he didn’t do it; no, he wasn’t a predator; and yes, a young woman can decide to have sex with a boy she met two days ago and then get mad about it. The horrible part of the story is that he was accused of attacking this young woman and found not guilty after he had already been kept in jail and served 19 months on house arrest.

The police introduced video of his first interrogation. Another horrible thing; the police in this video implied that they were talking to him about taking money (which he knew he hadn’t done), accused him of being gay (which he knew he wasn’t), and told him lies that they had both video and audio of the incident. He told them that the video and audio would clear him of any wrong-doing, and would prove that everything was consensual, which wasn’t the narrative they wanted to hear. And you can see it on the video as this young man realizes that he is in very deep trouble.

Similarly, my friend who was falsely accused of assaulting a student (friend: 5’9″, limited mobility due to back surgery; student: over 6′, rodeo rider, not even friend’s student) was arrested and put into lockup with many other men who were told that he was a “child molester.” I’ve known him all my life and didn’t need to be assured that he had done nothing wrong, but when he went to trial the accuser recanted on the stand.

My point with both of these stories is that not only had the accused not done anything wrong, it was impossible for him to have done what he was accused of doing. And why were both of them deprived of due process and punished for crimes they were only accused of committing?

From here, I’ve been debating the question of what justice really means. Say either of them was guilty, would it have been justice for them to go to prison and be abused in there? Justice was served eventually, but one of them had to leave town and the other one maybe should, since so many people are bent on punishing him by continuing to tell the false story and getting people riled up about him. The best I can do? Not only do I not know what justice would be, I don’t know why anyone trusts the police.

And how it all ties into the book: the Polish Home Army had its own justice system, with its own courts, juries and executioners–about 6,000 executions carried out during the Nazi occupation, according to some sources. Is it justice or terrorism? And can justice from a corrupt official like the Nazis be justice? And what does the American system of justice, in which people have been held without charge and without trial for years at Gitmo, in which you can be secretly arrested and held in a secret prison, say about America?

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