Sometimes, There Is Justice

I am relieved about the Arbery murder verdict, but I’m also sad that one right doesn’t erase a long pattern of wrongs.

The three men convicted today almost weren’t brought to justice at all. Local prosecutors, for various reasons, refused to bring charges against them. “It took a series of extraordinary events to force the system to regard their deaths as crimes worth investigating.”

Kevin Strickland was freed yesterday. But the Kansas City Star reports that he will receive no compensation from the state for more than 40 years of wrongful imprisonment.

That’s because Missouri’s compensation law only allows for payments to prisoners who prove their innocence through a specific DNA testing statute. That was not the case for Strickland, or most exonerees across America. Unlike guilty prisoners, a parole officer will not help Strickland find counseling, housing or work. And unlike exonerees in some other states, he will not be eligible through a compensation package for social services, such as participating in the state’s healthcare program.

Surely, he can sue for damages. I hope so. Meanwhile, his gofundme page appears to be getting some attention.

And the white supremacists who organized the 2017 Charlottesville hate fest must pay $26 million in damages. I’m sorry the jury couldn’t agree to convict on federal conspiracy charges, but the liability has got to hurt.

So, some positive things have happened over the past few hours. But not enough.

Three guilty men.

16 thoughts on “Sometimes, There Is Justice

  1. Like anything invented more than a decade or two ago, the semantics of trial-by-jury are forgotten. 

    It's not about fact-finding; few jurors would know a fact if it bit their nose off.  It's not about ratifying and performing the legitimacy of the law-as-text; once anyone has witnessed a failure to enforce the law-as-text, it loses all legitimacy. 

    It is about expressing the conscience of the community, against the background of a decision already proposed by the law-as-command (i.e., the King — there is always a King, be it an individual, or a faction, or a pseudophilosophy) — a decision that the jury may either ratify or nullify.  But a community of infants has no conscience; and if it did, the whole idea still boils down to "King-for-a-day", which is to say, a performance.  That fact that we trust people's lives to charades like this proves that we attach no value to anyone's life.  And even that is not what rubs: what rubs is the pretence that it is otherwise.

    • Frank – I strongly disagree, especially with your suggestion that a trial is a charade. It's a very imperfect system, and the judicial system itself has invented flaws to shift the odds in favor of a conviction and empower the judge to a sometimes ridiculous level. 

      I know I could write a book about the imperfections of the system because I wrote several chapters that only hit the high points. The strongest surviving facet of the judicial system is the facet you seemed most critical of – the jury.

      Having sat on several juries, I have always been impressed that the citizens take the responsibility seriously. And juries get it wrong fairly often BUT, if you don't trust a jury who DO you trust?  Trump appointed over 200 federal judges. Do you want them to have final authority in a criminal case where you sit as the defendant?

      Yes, we need I higher quality juror. That comes from teaching critical thinking and more civics and government. 

      The founding fathers built the jury system into the US Constitution because they tried to put the power to lock people up or execute them in the hands of regular people. Don't mock that concept or call them children. Not unless you have a better system to propose

      • The original definitions are mystical texts, expressed in English that is incomprensibly ambiguous even where it is grammatical.  The Founders were a parcel of lightweights who were obsessed with preventing a replay of the first half of the 17th Century and who were busking in proportion as those memories were decaying and being falsified.  The original definitions are not what is at issue today.  What is, is the fact that every aspect of the system, as practiced and therefore as it is now effectively defined, is purely corrosive.  There is no honesty in it, only ritual; and there is no point in saying, I like [this performance of] this ritual better than that one, etc.  Ritual is a category error, and would still be even if it were not a cover for arbitrariness.  Everyone perceives this.  No one is fooled.  There are still incentives — a range of incentives, wide enough to encompass both nostalgia and sabotage — to pretend; but the incentives are dissolving, week over week, and in any case all pretence is purely and fatally corrosive.  There is a direct line from the King's occasional (and highly motivated) "mercy" to the beliefs in incomprehensible conspiracies and infeasible biochemistry.

        You are quite right that saying these things imposes upon me, at least in principle, the obligation to propose alternatives.  But I take it as axiomatic, and universally understood, that there is no purpose in doing so, because the preconditions for implementing any alternative do not exist.  It is perfectly idle to speak of "teaching critical thinking and more civics and government".  Where would the motivation or the resources come from?  And, assume those things in place, over what span of time would that process necessarily play out?

    • I dunno. The founders sure seemed to feel that jurors "tried" facts:

      In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

      (end quoted)

      It's true, in practice- and I'm sorry, because that's kinda the opposite of 'the semantics' – juries are local consciences, and for many years, the lack of a federal anti-lynching law allowed citizens and LEOs to terrorize, brutalize, and murder,  minorities and other unpopular people, because the local conscience didn't care about "those people". After all, once the state and local authorities decided no crime was committed during a hanging party, the feds had no jurisdiction, so the matter was closed.

      And it's also true that a great many reasonable seeming discussions of "jury nullification" speak of times when juries refused to convict, because of the objective injustice a conviction would cause – and leaders of such discussions might even pretend to be greatly troubled by the abuses of the system that lead to an unofficial apartheid in the US.

      But before libertarians wax fondly about the preciousness of liberty, they should show that the tools they're prescribing for liberty have, in fact, been used in the cause of justice. Jury nullification can be a noble concept, sometimes – but its history in the US has, all too frequently, been to further injustice. 

  2. I have a brother- in- law who back in the early 70's watched the movie Serpico seven time. I used to think like what could make somebody so engrossed in a story that they would watch it seven times in such a short period? After watching the video of the McMichael's and Bryan receiving their guilty verdicts for the second time I became aware that seeing justice delivered has a quality about it that can be almost insatiable.

     I wonder what Glynn County jail is serving up for Thanksgiving? I hear Travis loves sweet potato pie.

  3. Here's what finally led to this guilty verdict as opposed to the Rottenmouse (sic) decision:

    1.  It takes a special kind of "MORAN!" to use his cell-phone to record himself and his two buddies killing a Black jogger for the "crime" of running while not-White.

    2.  And then, the feckin' eedjit KEPT the recording, and didn't pull a "Sorry DA!  I was new to recording with a phone, and " accidentally" erased it!  My bad…"

    3.  Letting I.B.A. Peckerhead – Travis – testify in his own defense.

    As for Kevin Strickland, he needs to sue the living shite out if the DA's office, and the police department that was involved.  

    I'm talkin' $100's of millions!!!!!

    HAPPY THANKSGIVING, ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Not having sat on the jury and not having seen the evidence, I'm reluctant to fault the jury in the Rittenhouse case. They may have precisely applied the actual law.

      Open-carry is legal. The judge threw out the charge having to do with an age violation. The last two people who were shot (fatality and injury) were in full-attack mode. (I think I would have also.) But what does anyone expect Baby Kyle to do? Hand over his weapon? Surrender to them? (The circumstances of the first shooting are the only ones I thought might  bring a conviction – depending on whether the jury thought Rittenhouse was afraid for his safety.) 

      The failure of the US is allowing people to open-carry. Rittenhouse was wrong, but wrong isn't always illegal. 

      Gulag makes the correct points – these idiots were so convinced of their special status derived by complexion that they built their collective defense around the dog-whistles Maha mentioned. This might have been the only defense they had – the strategy may have been a hail-mary for a hung jury. I'm starting to like Georgia people.

      The Charlottesville defense was likewise flawed, perhaps expecting a hung jury. These people think they ARE entitled – they think almost everybody hates jews. They think the natural order, ordained by God, requires that they are superior and entitled. The expectation extends to elections. Even if they lost, they won. 

      The January 6 chicken-ship cases are pleading early. The violent cases will go to trial – those caught on camera are going down and the judges are going UP on the recommendations of the prosecution. IMO, we're going to see a cascade of trials where the insurrectionists get a half-dozen years. One after another. 

      These clowns won't become pacifists because others do hard time, but the hope/expectation that juries won't convict and judges won't enforce will turn out to be false. 

      I fully intend to repeat myself on this point – everyone with a cell phone has the most important tool for obtaining a conviction if an open-carry anarchist tries to intimidate – at the polls or anywhere else. OMG – what should I do? Get your damn phone out!

      • I have one personal major regret about 1/6/21: the battery in my phone died a few minutes before the seditionistas reached the barricades at the Capitol…so, no 911 call and no pics…

      • The only way I can parse the Rittenhouse verdict is, Wisconsin has a requirement that the prosecutor *disprove* self defense.

        From what I can glean, the judge tried to force the jury to consider only the 15 seconds before the shooting.

        Rittenhouse gave an Oscar-ROFL (as opposed to "Oscar worthy", see) performance whining that he was sure, sure, sure, that people who'd come unarmed could only want to remove his weapons for one reason: to commit multiple murders.

        Now: force me to judge this young man as an adult, I'll point out he made a host of bad choices, all of which provided a clear and present danger to those around him, and he deserves to face serious consequences, both for his own sake, and the sake of others who feel the same way.

        Force me to examine just the shooting, and say to me "can you say, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Rittenhouse *did not* think that he was trying to prevent someone from stealing his gun to hurt people? I mean, we both know his fear was not reasonable – but can you say, beyond a reasonable doubt, that his fear *was not present*?"

        …well, if you force me to consider the question "could a stupid punk kid; brainwashed by people who've urged a violent uprising against the Constitutional order; hold on to an egregiously stupid belief, and pull a trigger while holding that dumbass belief?" then I'm forced to say "yes, a dumbass punk kid could do that. That's pretty much why the words 'dumbass punk kid' exist."

        That's a long and winding way of saying, it sounds like Wisconsin law said the killing was okay because the boy was scared, even if unreasonably so.

        This always raises a question for me. It seems to me that these sorts of self defense laws should be seen a violation of equal protection.

        See, the protection I should enjoy from the law is, if someone kills me, and a very small number of exceptions don't apply, society will do their damnedest to track down and punish my killer.

        The law should also protect people who are attacked, and  use minimal appropriate force to protect themselves.

        Somewhere between there is an appropriate gray area "Am I willing to be arrested if I'm wrong? Yes! I'll gladly be alive to be arrested, charged, and sued because all that is better than being dead!"

        And it's interesting. For a long time, cops were presented as needing *absolute* protection regarding the previous paragraph. That's not an entirely unjust notion, though it's clear that cops have violated the intent many times, by using lethal force when no danger existed to them, or the public.

        Okay, where was I? Right, for a long time, people said cops need an absolute exemption from having to consider *how* dangerous the situation was. If you've noticed, the philosophy is no longer limited to cops.

        Right wingers think they should be able to escalate to lethal force, and not be questioned, so long as they can speak the magic words "I feared for my life, and/or the risk of serious physical injury." That's the basis of Stand Your Ground, and "disprove self defense beyond a reasonable doubt".

    • Gently, let me suggest that it's entirely possible that one of the attackers was planning to video the encounter, to prove that nothing untoward happened, and decided to release it, to prevent his partners from getting away with murder.

      The video was released *after* the situation had quieted down, okay? If this had been a mob hit, the killers would have come back to town, because the heat had all cooled off, and it was safe.

      And the state didn't want to have a racially charged trial. And yet, the release of the video forced them to do so.

      Finally, ask yourself: you have two friends about to accost an innocent man, and you think they're doing something good. Would you be more likely to film it to protect your friends from later accusations that they accosted the man improperly, or would you be filming it to reminisce about the nastiness your friends showed?

      With all my cynicism, I still think "let's film this, to prove we did nothing wrong… HOLY F___ THEY KILLED HIM!" followed by a case of the guilts and an eventual leak of the video makes more sense.

      I won't deny I could be wrong. It's just, there's a lot of little things that suggest the video was leaked by someone who knew they were heels, not heroes.



  4. I'm glad you mentioned Strickland's gofundme page – I chipped in. Total is nearing $500 K. Can't fix Missouri but I can at least help someone who deserves it.

    Thrilled about the Arbery and Charlottesville verdicts. It's progress.

    Have a good holiday, everyone!

  5. ZOMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I just learned on the great Chris Hayes' Show that the reason the "Einstein" (NOT!!!) who recorded the murder saved the video, was that this "MORAN!!!!! felt that it was proof of their claim that these 3 were defending themselves!


    If I had no conscience, I'd have those tens of millions of dollars.  And more!!!

    Listen, in reality, I'm 63 with major heart/lung issues.  So what could I do that would be worth the money?


    But in the meantime:  HOOKERS – OR PARTNER(S) – COGNAC, CHAMAPGNE, AND BLOW FOR EVERYONE!!!!YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • I've been studying Confucius' Analects (a collection of C's sayings that others wrote down). One of them: "The superior man concerns himself with righteousness; the inferior man is focused on gaining an advantage"

      Confucius died, failing to convince anybody in the TPTB to take his advice. China was going through immense turmoil in and around his lifetime. It was only a few hundred years later, that people discovered him, and made his thoughts the center of their culture.

      One of my favorite quotes is from Shakespeare (a paraphrase): the reason babies cry when they're born is because they know they're entering a world /a lifetime of fools.

      As you get older, this becomes all the more clear. And then you get to leave.

    • Well, that blows the "guilt" explanation for the video release out of the water.

      I'm still glad I wrote it, because I'd still rather believe better of people, and be disappointed. But these days, I'm really pretty tired of finding out how there's just no depth to the callousness.

  6. Baby Kyle had quite a defense fund, with one individual on television claiming it came to 2 million.  Reports on the internet gave several sources who reported over a half a million in the defense coffers.  The true figure either way is large.

    The defense was reported to be able to conduct a couple of rehearsal trials, a spendy luxury for sure. 

    When you have enough money and a high standard of proof, you can usually find a glove that just won't fit, and an acquittal get.  Civil court is a bit of a different story.  


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