Crime and Punishment

Our American justice system is supposed to be based on the premise that everyone accused of a crime is innocent until proven guilty. If that were only the case. It’s really the exact opposite. The fact of the matter is that a person always is presumed guilty until proven innocent. If that weren’t how it is in reality, then people wouldn’t be arrested, detained in jail indefinitely, and required to stand trial in order to clear themselves. People go on trial in order to try to prove their innocence, not their guilt. We must be already presuming that they are guilty, or else they wouldn’t be there, would they?

People tend to make up their own minds about the accused anyway, regardless of their actual guilt or innocence or even the outcome of the trial. Look at the O.J. Simpson case, for example. As soon as the murders occurred and O.J. was arrested as the sole suspect, people were already saying that he was guilty. That early on when we knew next to nothing about the murders, my friends were telling me, “I know that he did it!” How do you know? I asked. You didn’t actually see him do it. The media and press pretty much agreed. They told us that he was guilty even before the trial began. Then even when the verdict came in “Not Guilty,” there are many of those who still think that he did it. So even though the trial supposedly proved his innocence, people are still upset about it, saying that he got away with murder and criticizing the jury for rendering the wrong verdict.

For the record, I am one who had, for the whole time, always maintained O.J.’s innocence, as I didn’t see him do it and I can’t prove that he did. But as time has passed, public opinion has swayed me to think that he probably is guilty. Although after viewing the recent TV miniseries “The People Vs. O.J. Simpson” (2016), which was a dramatic re-enactment of the entire case, I have come to the conclusion that the jury did render a fair verdict. I, too, have reasonable doubt about it.

The testimony, or rather lack thereof, of L.A. police officer Mark Fuhrman was a deciding factor, in my opinion. Fuhrman was put on the witness stand on two occasions. The first time he out and out lied when asked if he had ever used the N-word in the past year or so, but at the time they couldn‘t prove that he was lying. O.J.’s defense team later discovered from recorded evidence that Fuhrman had in fact uttered the word many times in his duties as a cop. So when he was put back on the stand the second time and asked the same question, so as not to commit further perjury, he refused to answer “on the grounds that it may incriminate me.” But to me, when somebody does that, they must be somehow guilty of the accusation or else they would answer, wouldn’t they? To keep from lying, just don’t answer the question. When Fuhrman then refused to answer any questions posed to him, including this one: “Is the L.A. police department guilty of planting or manipulating any evidence to frame Mr. Simpson?” by his not answering in the negative, he is saying, “Yeah, we did try to frame him.”

Then there was the matter of O.J.‘s blood found at the murder scene and whether it was planted there. The police had a full vial of his blood taken from him after his arrest. The person who had the blood sample took it with him to the crime scene, and later it was discovered that some of the blood from the vial was missing! When asked what happened to the missing blood, the reply was, “It must have spilled out somewhere.” Or it could have been poured out somewhere! If they were all so sure that O.J. had committed the murders, why would they need to plant evidence to help make their case? So it was the perjured and non-responsive testimony and tampered evidence that created the reasonable doubt. The jury had to come up with the Not Guilty verdict. That is how I would have voted.

My dissatisfaction with the whole thing, however, is, officially the case is still unsolved. The question still remains, if O.J. didn’t do it, then who did? The best way to clear a wrongly-accused defendant is to reveal the real culprit, or at least present other possible suspects, which during all that time they never did. Simpson’s own lawyer, Robert Shapiro, suggested that more than one knife were used in the killings and that there were more than one person involved. Even if O.J. is one of them, maybe he did not act alone. Since O.J. did serve nine years time in prison for another lesser offense, if he is in fact guilty of the murders, I think that justice eventually has been served. Do you know about O.J.’s previous web site: OJ/(slash)Nicole.com?

Why do so many murders go unsolved? Because they are not all properly investigated. And why is that? If the authorities don’t care enough about the victim, they won’t do much about it. Why do many convicted murderers get acquitted? They get clever lawyers who know how to work around the system to their advantage. It depends on who the criminal is, who the victim is and how much money the defendant has to give to their lawyers. Truth, fairness and justice are only incidental. In this way, our judicial system is greatly flawed with many defects. It could be effective and virtually foolproof if everybody played fairly and always told the absolute truth. But there are those who constantly abuse and manipulate the system. Witnesses give false testimony, even intentionally lie under oath, and defendants are sometimes victims of mistaken identity. With all the plea-bargaining, loopholes and lawyers’ tricks that are used, criminals who have been proven guilty get off scot-free all the time, and innocent people are always being convicted, incarcerated and even executed.

A guy is on trial for murdering his wife. But even though he confessed, after a police officer found her corpse in the trunk of his car, he is acquitted because the cop had pulled him over without “probable cause,” therefore anything that was discovered after the fact is inadmissible. What?! So although everybody knows that he is guilty, he gets away with it. A lot depends on how rich or poor the client is. If one has enough money, they can buy any defense. Even corrupt judges have been paid off to render favorable verdicts.

I bring even the jury system itself into question. They always say that it’s a “jury of your peers,” but that’s another hypocritical lie! It’s hardly ever the case. A peer is defined as “one that is of equal standing with another; one belonging to the same societal group, based on age, grade or status.” If a poor black kid from the urban ghetto is on trial for something, and his jury is made up of upper-middle-class to rich, suburban, white folks, how are they this boy’s peers? He doesn’t have anything in common with those people, as far as his social status goes. How can they judge him fairly when they don’t know anything about his life or how he came to be in the situation he is in?

Not so long ago in the South, when juries were made up entirely of white men—some, if not all, of them belonged to the Klan—would be the ones passing judgment on some black person on trial, that is, if the poor bloke even made it to trial. There is only one way it could turn out. They never get people from the same neighborhood or income bracket as the defendant they’re hearing. They might be too sympathetic and unwilling to convict an actual peer. That would defeat their purpose, wouldn’t it? It turns out that they are really a jury of their peers, not the defendant’s. They become the object of “peer pressure” and are compelled or encouraged to go along with the consensus, even if one or more jurors want to vote Not Guilty.

Poor Rubin “Hurricane” Carter just couldn’t get a break. According to the movie The Hurricane (1999), starring Denzel Washington, Rubin was sent to juvenile jail for 10 years when he was only 11-years-old, for defending himself against an adult child molester, whom he stabbed with a knife to stop the man from throwing him over a cliff. He didn’t even kill the guy. But the white man pressed charges, and of course they took his word over the black boy’s. Then when Rubin got out of this prison and became a professional boxer, he again was wrongfully convicted of a triple murder this time and sentenced to life imprisonment! All the evidence against him was fabricated, as there was no real proof that he had done anything. After serving 30 years (!) he was granted another trial which cleared him of all charges, and he was finally set free. But that was 40 years of his life of wrongful incarceration! I find that utterly shameful.

Although the court system is not perfect, I would hate to be one of the mistakes in judgment, especially if my life depended upon it. Some juries have concluded that a defendant is guilty based solely on eyewitness testimony. I don’t consider that real proof in convicting somebody, especially when there is no other real evidence connecting them to the crime except that one person’s account. Circumstantial evidence is not always reliable or positive proof. Since they weren’t there, jury members tend to base their decision on what is learned during the trial. But suppose that witness is mistaken or intentionally lies about what went down? I wouldn’t want to be responsible for sending an innocent person to prison or to be executed.

In November 2013 (21-years-old at the time of conviction) Ryan Ferguson was cleared of murder after spending almost ten years in prison, after two witnesses finally admitted that they both lied on the witness stand when they accused Ferguson of the crime. And this was a young white man, too, from a nice, middle-class family. So it’s not only poor blacks who get the shaft. It can happen to anybody, it seems. Now suppose Ferguson had received the death penalty before he was exonerated?

There have been many unfortunates–too many, in my opinion–who were executed and then afterwards it was discovered and proved that the poor chap was innocent. How can they convict, let alone, execute anybody based solely on unsubstantiated hearsay and supposition? That’s no real proof of anything. Did anybody actually see them do it, or did they confess?

I wish it were like the TV murder dramas where the real killer is revealed by the end by proving his guilt along with a confession. There would be no need for a trial then. Like TV’s “Murder, She Wrote,” for example (still in syndication), Jessica Fletcher discovers who the murderer is by the end of the episode, and with law enforcement present, they will proceed to admit that they are the killer and will tell them how and why they it. I always want to tell them, ‘Why are y’all confessing to Jessica and telling her all your business? She ain’t nobody!’

Look at how much time and money is saved by doing that. But then the lawyers wouldn’t get their cut, would they? I realize that trials and the whole justice system is all a business. There is always bail, fines and court fees implemented. For all those involved, their very jobs and livelihood depend on arrests and convictions and “due process of the law,” regardless of the outcome. If there is no trial, then there is no show and less to no pay.

Here is something that always gives me pause. How can they convict someone of murder when they don’t have the body of the supposed murdered victim? They can’t find the body so the defendant must have killed him, right? That’s no real proof of anything, only supposition. Did they even look for the missing person? They have to be somewhere. Even if the body was completely disposed of, that’s still no real proof. Maybe you can’t find it because the person is not really dead, perhaps, only hiding out somewhere. People have been known to fake their own death, sometimes even to frame somebody. I would still need undeniable proof in order to convict somebody. I consider the lack of habeus corpus to be reasonable doubt in itself. You show me the undeniably-dead body, and then build your case against somebody, not the other way around.

There is also the “nut role” defense or testimony, where a testifying witness conveniently doesn’t remember or recall what is being asked them. That way, they can’t be charged with perjury, because they are not intentionally lying–they just don’t recall what went down, you see. That tactic would create reasonable doubt for me. How can I know for sure what really happened when the primary eyewitnesses “don’t” even remember?

It’s been reported that up to 136,000 persons at any given time are serving time in prison for crimes that they did not commit. That is a frightening realization. And of course, this is no accident either. It has been revealed that certain penal facilities, like New York’s Rikers Island, for instance, recruit people to incarcerate so that they can keep the place open and continue to receive funding, and the wardens and guards can keep their jobs. Unfortunately and intentionally, it is your poor blacks who are targeted and arrested for the most minor of offenses, sometimes even made-up offenses, then are relegated to the prison and held there indefinitely, because their bail is set so high they cannot possibly pay it. It’s a despicable racket which is still being allowed to continue.

I am always hearing about how the American justice system is the best in the world. But you will pardon me if I don’t agree. With those disturbing statistics of wrongful convictions, my faith and trust in the courts is less than positive, certainly far from being the best. As I, myself, have been a victim of unfair court proceedings, I’m sure that other unfortunate individuals who have been abused by the system would readily concur with my assessment. These fast-talking lawyers confuse and manipulate juries so well that they don’t know what the truth is most of the time, and the lawyers don’t even care. It’s just a game with them, after all, and their main objective is to win their case at all costs, to hell with truth and justice. It’s all about who is the better player. Therefore, the ultimate purpose of a trial is to determine grounds for punishment, which in turn is decided by judgmental human beings who are guided by their own biases and opinions, which don’t necessarily have anything to do with the truth.

Sometimes the wrong charge presented to a jury will render an unjust verdict. Those cops in the Rodney King case were not charged with attempted murder, like they should have been, but some lesser charge, like nervousness or something, and the jury had to rule on the charge that they were given, so they all got off with a lighter sentence. Christian Brando, Marlon’s son, killed a man in premeditated, cold blood, but his lawyer got him to plead “voluntary manslaughter,” which is considered a less-serious charge, I guess, than first-degree murder. I don’t see any difference in those two terms. The result is the same. Somebody is dead by intentional means. And then young Brando served only half of his 10-year term.

What is the legal time-limit on so-called premeditation? Did they plan to kill that person a year, a week, a day, an hour or a minute before they did it? Why should it matter when or whether it was planned or not? “But I didn’t mean to kill him. We were struggling and he accidentally fell on my knife.” So you were brandishing a knife that you didn’t intend to use? When you pushed your pregnant wife down the stairs, on the spur of the moment, you see, you didn’t mean to kill her? You were just trying to make her miscarry? Oh, well, then. I think that when someone is responsible for another person’s death, they are guilty, regardless of their intent. Whether they meant it or not doesn’t change the outcome.

I think that attempted crimes should hold the same weight as actual execution. If a person tries to kill somebody but the victim survives, it shouldn’t make the charge less serious. If murder is defined by intent, he intended to kill his wife; she just didn’t die. So shouldn’t attempted murder have the same penalty as actual murder? In the 1936 Fritz Lang drama Fury, innocent traveler, Spencer Tracy, who is thought to be guilty of a kidnapping, is targeted by a lynch mob in a small town. While held in custody in the local jailhouse, the mob sets it afire with the intent to burn the prisoner therein alive. But Tracy escapes, and out of revengeful anger he decides to bring the mob participants to justice. Now although they shouldn’t be convicted of actual murder, they are at least guilty of burning the jailhouse down with the intent to kill. Just because he didn’t die doesn’t change the situation. So it would be murder only if he had actually died in the fire?

Then there is the person who kills the wrong person by mistake. If first-degree murder is deemed to have intent attached to it, if they didn’t intend to kill that person, should they be held accountable, even though they did kill somebody else instead? “I didn’t mean to kill her, Your Honor. I was aiming at that other bitch!” “Oh, well, then.” And what about the person who “kills” someone who is already dead? I mean that they didn’t realize that the person was dead when they shot them or stabbed them or bludgeoned them with something. Should that person be absolved because they didn’t really kill anybody, although they certainly meant to?

I don’t like the “insanity defense” either. You know, when a remorseless killer is found “not guilty by reason of insanity.“ Well, so what if the guy is crazy, temporarily or otherwise? I think there is some degree of mental ill-health when anybody kills another person. That’s no excuse to let them off the hook. If they are really sick, then hie them to a facility for the criminally insane. Don’t exonerate them of their crime. They still committed murder and should be held responsible.

I heard of a man who was convicted of the attempted murder of his wife and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. When his parole came up at 12 years, he swore to his parole board that when he got out, he would “finish the job” on his wife. Now, isn’t that a good enough reason to keep his butt in there? If he is freely admitting to a future crime, then apparently he has not been properly rehabilitated, has he? How can they ever let him out, knowing that? There are those, too, who, when they are released from prison, will attempt to exact revenge on those who were responsible for putting them away. They think that they are above the law and shouldn’t have had to pay for what they did, and how dare you do your job as a prosecutor or jurist to see justice done. You need to pay!

There are certain areas in some major cities that experience regular incidents of black-on-black crimes, including murder. One example is my own hometown of South Bend, Indiana. When I was growing up there in the ’50s and ’60s, as far as we all knew, our neighborhood was virtually crime-free. There were no vandalism, robberies or burglaries, we didn’t even have to lock the house when we went out. Everybody respected each other’s property and privacy. So I grew up with a sense of safety and security, a peaceful, carefree existence. A good 20 years later, however, during the ’70s and ’80s, things had changed quite drastically. Drug use and dealing had entered the picture, and my once-secure neighborhood eventually turned into a crime-ridden, black ghetto.

My sister and her husband were living in that same house during that time, and their two daughters were still young children. My brother-in-law, Sam, came home from work one day and found bullet holes in the front of the house, I suppose the result of a drive-by shooting. What if my nieces had been out in the front yard playing that day? It was then that they decided to move, afraid for their lives. They moved to a fabulous house in a crime-free area on the outskirts of town.

Only two blocks away from where our family homestead was located, became known as “The Block,” an unmonitored, regular criminal hangout. My mother used to report to me that there were almost daily news reports of shootings on that corner, and little or nothing was ever done about it, which is why it was able to occur so often. There were never any investigations or if there were, nobody was ever convicted. People soon learned that they could kill anybody they wanted to and get away with it. Since it was just blacks killing other blacks, the police department didn’t seem to care. I’m sure that if it was happening in the predominately-white areas of town, they certainly would have taken notice. The city of Chicago is experiencing the same sort of violence. They are daily killings of black youths from gangs and other factions, and the local police department and even the mayor are not doing a damn thing about it.

You must be familiar with the concept of cause-and-effect. I find it interesting that as a result of the case of Roe vs. Wade decision in 1973 which legalized abortion, there was a major decline in American crime during the ‘90s. The theory is that a lot of women stopped having unwanted babies that they didn’t have the means to support, and since these are the children who are more likely to resort to crime as they get older, the fact that they were never born, it spared the community of their criminal influence. In general, wanted children with loving, responsible parents of financial means are more inclined to grow up to be law-abiding and with a good moral sense. But now it’s a generation later, and it looks as if things are back the way they were before.

Many criminal acts are money motivated, like robbery, embezzlement, extortion and blackmail. The persons who commit any of these crimes usually have some kind of paying job, but it’s apparently not enough. Even those who have a lot of money always seem to want more. Whether they have a regular salary or not, some willingly resort to crime rather than finding an honest job or just be satisfied with the job they have. I’ve never been a greedy person. I’ve never made as much money as I would like, but I have managed to make do with whatever I earn. I have never considered resorting to crime to get something that I don’t have. I learned long ago that I have to get along without certain things. It’s a sacrifice, but I just do with what I got. Therefore, I contend that crime commitment is a choice. Nobody absolutely has to break the law. They just choose to do so. Suppose I wanted a car. I can’t afford to buy one, so why don’t I just steal one? No, I will just do without it instead.

In theory, laws are set up as moral guidelines for society, and the threat of consequential punishment is supposed to be an incentive always to obey the law. But since incarceration and even execution are not effective deterrents, apparently, why even bother with trials and convictions? What good are they (except for the aforementioned monetary compensation involved)? The laws themselves and the ensuing punishments have never prevented people from doing exactly what they want to do. Do you honestly think that a person who would dare to rob a bank today actually thinks that they will never get caught? People get desperate enough and are willing to take the chance.

I’ve heard TV ads that proclaim, “If you break the law, you will go to jail.“ Not necessarily. We all break laws and commit crime everyday; we just don’t always get caught. We jaywalk, double-park, litter, use illegal drugs, commit assault, cheat on our income taxes, whatever, but consider them only harmless misdemeanors, if even that. I don’t commit robbery, murder or sell crack to schoolchildren—not because it’s against the law, but because it’s wrong and it hurts people. Since scruples and ethics are not governed by laws, people do terrible things to each other all the time and still manage to remain within the law. So if we don’t get caught, accused or convicted of something, is it a crime?

There is a comedy film called Meet the Blacks (2016), starring Mike Epps (there may be others with a similar premise), in which the city of Beverly Hills, California implements “The Purge.” That’s when all matter of crime–theft, physical assault, even murder–is allowed for a 12-hour period. I wonder how we all would fare in a real situation as that. It would be a test of human morality, wouldn’t it? Would certain people use the opportunity to rob, steak. commit rape and get rid of each other with no legal ramifications, or would these same people refrain from committing any kind of crime because it’s wrong?

The current U.S. prison population (as of this writing) is 2,400,000, the largest in the world, and juvenile detention is up to nearly 7 million! Something must be terribly wrong when 7 million of our children are serving time in jail. Of course, some of that number are probably innocent, but we should assume that most of them are not. That still is way too many. Then, too, we know that there are many more who should be in prison but are not. We need to look at the bigger picture. If our world necessitates the maintenance of jails and prisons to confine our social miscreants, then the main problem must be the lack of human morality itself. We all should be taught to feel reproach and culpability for our wrongful actions and then have the resolution to punish ourselves, which some of us tend to do anyway out of remorse. Fortunately, many of us already harbor enough inherent guilt and have a good sense of right and wrong that prevents us from doing intentional wrong in the first place. That is perhaps why there is not a lot more crime in the world than there already is.

Recently, upon watching a drama about art forgery, it got me to thinking. Now I can understand so-called plagiarism to be an unethical indiscretion–attempting to pass off someone else’s work as your own, therefore taking the credit and remuneration–but in the case of someone copying a work of art, I have trouble finding the criminal element of that. A person who copies a famous painting does not claim it for their own glory or profit. They are most likely paid for the job, and what happens to the copy afterwards is out of this guy’s hands. Admitting to anybody that it is a fake sort of defeats the purpose. If someone chooses to pay a lot of money for a copy, thinking that it is an original, it’s not the forger’s doing.

Visual art is completely subjective. I think that art should be judged and regarded on its appearance appeal rather than who actually created it. It’s like with wearing apparel. If I like a certain garment, it doesn’t matter to me who made it. I don’t care about the name label on it if I like the product. So by the same token, if I like a certain painting, it doesn’t have to be the original. A reproduction will do me just fine. If they are charging more for it than I am willing to pay, then I just won’t buy it. Its authenticity is inconsequential. At any rate, I certainly don’t accuse the person who make the copy of committing a criminal act. The gift shops in art museums regularly sell reproductions of their acquisitions. I have one or two myself. I am sure that the ones responsible for creating all those reproductions are not considered forgers. It’s just their job, like anything else.

The same can be said of imitation jewelry and fur. The manufacturers of rhinestones, cubic zirconia, fake furs and such are not considered forgers. They only reproduce less-expensive facsimiles of precious gems and animal pelts. When we know that they are not the real thing but go on and buy them anyway, we don’t accuse the makers for giving us a cheaper option.

Another unfair, victimless crime, in my opinion, is the receiving of stolen property. When we buy or are given anything, how can we know for sure whether it was stolen or not? People shop at flea markets, thrift shops, street fairs, garage, yard and rummage sales on a regular basis. Might any of those items had been stolen from somebody else before they were resold? How is the innocent buyer at fault? I’m sure that many of the items at pawn shops, too, are stolen. I expect it is where years ago my burglarized property ended up. Even if you know that you are in the possession of a hot item, why is that a bad thing? I need a certain thing and somebody is able to get it for me for real cheap. How does that make me the criminal? I have a friend who actually had to serve prison time on the charge of receiving stolen property. Of course, the person who did the actual stealing is nowhere to be found.

In a perfect world there would be no crime. And since everything that we do in life is a choice, it would mean that every single person would make a conscious effort never to do wrong and have the moral sense always to treat each other righteously. There is a religious philosophy that contends that if you even think about committing a wrong, it is the same as actually doing it. But then that would confirm the fact that we are all sinners. Who has never in their life thought of doing something that they know is not right, even though they probably would never actually do it? I don’t agree that thinking and acting upon our thoughts are the same thing. Otherwise, we’d all be locked up somewhere!

I find a certain irony in being incarcerated. Although confined against their will, it gives prisoners a kind of freedom to do whatever they want, in spite of the house rules. They can speak their mind and exhibit any personal quirks or fetishes that they may have. They can commit any crime, including theft, assault, rape and even murder, the penalty for such unlawful acts being prison time. But since they are already there, what’s stopping them and what is anybody going to do about it? What do you do in the case of a person serving life, for instance? Extend their sentence? Putting someone in solitary confinement is not such a terrible deterrent for some. Take me, for example. Solitary, in itself, would not be a punishment, as I am used to spending time with myself, sometimes several days on end. I prefer it, in fact, instead of sharing a cell with somebody (unless he‘s my boyfriend and lover). Even if I am deprived of any reading material, with my extensive music repertoire, I would just sing and recite monologues to pass the time. It would be a punishment only for the person who hates ever being alone. Indeed, there are far more things that we are not allowed to do here in the outside world than are forbidden to do in prison.

People rally for the death penalty as if that will change the situation. It doesn’t undo anything. It won’t bring the murdered victims back to life and it won’t stop the acts of murder and mayhem from ever occurring again. All it does is stop that particular person from committing any more crimes, but it also prevents them from doing anything constructive or socially beneficial. Moreover, death is not a real punishment, in my opinion. A punishment should teach a lesson, let the person know that they have done something wrong and acknowledge personal atonement for it. One cannot experience conscious retribution while dead. For those doomed prisoners who want to die, it’s not a punishment for them either, as you are giving them what they want.

Although I am more for self-punishment than penalties imposed by others, I have some alternative suggestions to execution. Why not keep doomed killer convicts alive and attempt some sort of rehabilitation, or if they are a hopeless case, at least put them through a living hell? Instead of killing these people or confining them to indoor prisons, why not force them to do hard labor, for example? I believe in constructive punishment. Let’s make use of the available manpower in a positive way instead of stifling it or eliminating it altogether. We need roads built and maintained, buildings constructed, and how about making them clean up this filthy City? The punishment is that they will be doing it without any pay. What is the fun or reward of undesirable, backbreaking work without any monetary compensation? The wardens wouldn’t have to follow Union regulations, so they could deny the prisoners regular breaks and make them work much more than only 7 hours a day. They would get time out only for meals and sleep. That’s the same as slavery.

But in this case, it is imposed as an individual punishment for committing a crime, not automatically foisted upon innocent people who only happen to be of a particular ethnic group. That seems like fitting punishment to me. “But that’s taking good paying jobs away from those who want to do that kind of work,” you may say. Well, they didn’t consider that fact or seem to mind when it was we blacks doing it for all those hundreds of years, for no pay! It might even create some incentive for people to do right. Do you want to have to work for no pay, or do the same type of work and get paid well for it? Then stay out of trouble and obey the law!

For the real hardened criminals, deny them any recreation, exercise, hobbies, leisure time or any companionship, but subject them only to work and isolation. Deny them of their basic human rights. There are too many perks in the prisons nowadays. Some inmates have it so good in prison that they never want to leave. That goes back to the notion that prison affords more liberties than what we are allowed here on the outside. Men with serious medical conditions have been known to want to go to prison to get the free medical treatment that would be available to them and that they have been denied outside because of their lack of health insurance, for example. Also, prison inmates should be subject to regular psychological therapy to help rehabilitate them and try to prepare them to reenter civilized society.

For the ambitious, hopefully-rehabilitative, I would consider an education program which offers academic courses and career training for those who have so far lacked them and now desire to better themselves when they are eventually paroled. Their lack of proper education is one of the reasons why many of them wound up in prison in the first place. Too, their counseling sessions would teach them remorse for what they have done wrong so that they won’t do it again when they get out. Every case being different, each should be handled accordingly. At any rate, I don’t think that anything is accomplished by putting convicted criminals to death.

For violent wrongdoing other than murder, I could go along with letting the punishment fit the crime. For the man who likes to rape women, for instance, the courts could enlist a man, who’s bigger and stronger than the other guy, to rape him. For battery cases, hire somebody to beat the shit out of the abuser. Let them know how it feels, what they put their victims through. I do realize, though, that most of them already know what it’s like, being probable victims of abuse themselves when they were children. But maybe it would serve as an unpleasant reminder to them. Look, you didn’t like being beaten, so how dare you put somebody else through the same thing, especially someone whom you claim to love?

Be advised that I am offering these suggestions only to those offenders who have been proven without any doubt that they did what they have been accused of, by actual confession or undisputed eyewitness account of their crime. I realize that many prisoners serving time are actually innocent, having been convicted on unverified circumstantial evidence, mishandled trials because of incompetent lawyers, and by manipulating and abusing the justice system. I certainly wouldn’t want to impose such harsh punishments on those innocent convicts. It’s enough that they are in there at all.

I have always enjoyed lawyer shows and courtroom drama on TV and the movies, and I watch them with appreciation and insight. I am greatly disillusioned by our American court system. It’s a farce. It’s all just a big game with the lawyers, and it’s all about money and winning in any way possible. They unabashedly play with and destroy people’s lives in the process, often without any remorse or conscience. I rankle and bristle when I hear two lawyers plea-bargaining on behalf of a client. They sound as if they are haggling with an antique dealer. “I’d like to give your guy 20 years in prison.” “How about 10?” “Fifteen and you’ve got a deal. I‘ll even throw in the possibility of an early parole with good behavior.” But they are not the ones serving the time! I hate how they manipulate a person’s life like that, especially the innocent ones who haven’t done anything to merit it.

I’ve heard lawyers and judges, when deciding upon bail or punishment, will take the defendant’s criminal record into consideration. “Since this is the defendant’s first offense, I will set bail at only $10,000.” So this guy has been convicted of burglary, but he has no priors, so we will go easy on him this time. If he does it a couple more times, however, we’ll have to be a little more strict. “This is only my client’s first bank robbery, Your Honor.” “Oh, well, then.”

And I hope that those clichéd objections uttered in filmed courtroom dramas are not common real life occurrences. “Objection, Your Honor! Argumentative.” Well, isn’t that what lawyers do, argue their cases for their clients? If somebody says something that’s not true or inaccurate, I expect my lawyer to argue the point. Isn‘t that their job? “We will now have your closing arguments.” Hello? I find that to be a stupid objection, but nobody ever calls them on it. “That’s hearsay, Your Honor. Not admissible.” So any testimony made not under oath is not admissible, even though it may be quite pertinent and could solve the case? Isn’t anything uttered by a person in someone else’s presence hearsay? I think that all testimony should be allowed, no matter where or who it came from. Let the jury decide whether it’s valid and to believe it or not. That’s why they’re there, isn’t it?

“The jury will disregard the witness’ last statement.” Why should we? They said it, so let’s deal with it. What they said could be entirely relevant. “I object! Council is badgering the witness.” Well, so what? If that will get them to tell the truth, I don’t care if the lawyer goes a little rough on their witnesses. Some people need badgering. The D.A. is trying to prosecute an innocent defendant but he‘s so concerned about a witness‘ feelings? “This witness is not on trial!” They’re not? Then maybe they should be. Why are they testifying? All participants in a trial are “on trial.” If I know that my client is innocent and I think that this witness knows more than they’re telling—they could even be the guilty party—then I should be able to ask them anything that I want to.

With Ben Matlock, for example, his prosecutors were always objecting to him, like he was wasting time with pointless interrogation. “Mr. Matlock, what is the relevance of this line of questioning?” Well, if you’ll shut up and let the man do his cross-examination, you will see the relevance! Ben has the real killer on the stand and he is relating to the court how this person committed the murder. He has to explain the situation to the jury so that they will understand what happened. He can’t just cut to the chase without first setting the scene. If he did that, someone would ask, “But how did he do it? I don’t understand.” Well, that’s what he was trying to explain when you interrupted him!

The prosecutor jumps up and says, “That’s pure speculation!” Well, since Ben’s client is innocent of the crime, the D.A.’s case against them is also speculation, isn’t it? He didn’t actually see them do it. It’s all circumstantial. So since the prosecution has apparently come up with its own erroneous scenario of the crime, the defense should be allowed to present their version. Allow the jury to hear another take on the case, so that they can make an informed decision. Again, that’s why they are there.

Ben seldom lost a case, but they were always second-guessing him and treating him like he didn’t know what the hell he was doing. He never asked a question that he did not already know the answer to. That way he knew when people were lying. “Are you acquainted with ‘John Doe,‘ the victim?” “No, sir. I’ve never heard of the man.” “So then, why did you and he make several phone calls to each other the very week that he was murdered?” Why would they lie about something that can so easily be confirmed, obviously committing perjury? Just say, “Yes, I knew him,“ and leave it at that. One can answer a simple question without admitting to anything incriminating.

So then after Ben lays out who did it and how the murder was committed, the D.A. and judge insist that he prove it. Why does he need to prove it? The prosecutor didn’t prove the defendant’s guilt. Isn’t it supposed to be, innocent until proven guilty? All Ben needs to do is establish reasonable doubt, which he has already done. If you want proof, why don’t you do a more thorough investigation this time, just as Ben did, and get the proof yourself?

A testifying witness is sworn in to “tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.“ Some won’t volunteer any information unless directly called on it. That “pleading the Fifth” also serves as a convenient loophole for the witness, discussed earlier, as it creates reasonable doubt for the defendant. If we don’t get the answers to pertinent questions about the case, then how can we render a fair, informed verdict? I still will have reasonable doubt. There are too many rules of protocol in the courtroom. How can attorneys get at the truth when the judges and opposing council are constantly tying their hands with petty and unwarranted objections and restrictions?

Here is a little-known historical note that you may find interesting. You already know that modern courts of law administer the oath by instructing the witness to place their right hand (why the right?) on the Bible. But before there was the Bible to swear on, the solemn method of taking an oath demanded the putting of one’s hand on the penis of the person to whom the promise, statement or vow was made. As the organ of reproduction, a man’s genitals were regarded as his most sacred possession, and to expose them to view, caused not shame but awe. Therefore swearing by, and literally on, the penis presupposed extra sanctity and inviolable obligation. The meaning of the procedure implied that should he who was taking the oath ever break it, his “issue,” the yet unborn generations, would punish such disloyalty and dishonoring of a pledge.

Of course, later periods, regarding this system, or even its very recollection, offensive, changed the Biblical terminology from penis to the thigh or loins. This also implies that at one time only men could testify in a court of law, just as juries, too, used to be all-male. The tradition survives, at least etymologically, in the Latin word for witness—testis, and from that we get the words testament, testes, testicles, testify, testimonial and testimony.

I would love to be able to make a controversial statement someday, if I am ever required to testify under oath in a court of law, to be sworn in by grabbing hold of my crotch with my left hand and taking the solemn oath to tell the truth. Why should I have to swear on a Bible? That doesn’t mean anything to me. My dick means more to me than some ol’ Bible. If the judge protests, I’ll just point out that what I did was the original basis of the procedure. Let them try to argue with that.

Of course, I would probably be cited with contempt for such a stunt. So, I’m a rebel! I am reminded of Mae West in the hilarious courtroom scene in She Done Him Wrong (1933), when Mae, on trial for being accused of jilting her several suitors, is actually “holding court” and throwing shade on her accusers. The judge asks her, “Are you trying to show contempt for this court, young lady?” Mae replies, “No, Judge, I am trying my best not to show my contempt!”

The swearing in of witnesses is pointless anyway, due to the fact that people still lie under oath. A truly honest person will tell the truth anyway. They don’t have to take an oath. By the same token, a person will lie if it suits their purpose. The lawyers and judges know that. That’s why they came up with the crime of perjury. The last time I was on jury duty, one of the lawyers actually warned us that just because a witness swears on the Bible, we shouldn’t let that influence whether they are being truthful on the stand or not. So I said to him, ‘Then what’s the point of swearing people in?’ He had to help me say. He thought it was pointless and unnecessary, too.

I have heard police officers deliberately lie on the witness stand, in order to disparage and convict an innocent defendant. When the defendant’s friends actually tell the truth about what really happened, which differs from the cops’ testimony, the judge chooses to believe the officers instead, even though they lied about everything. “That guy would say anything to help his friend.” Even if it’s the truth? So it’s like with everything else, people believe what they choose to believe, regardless of whether it’s actually true or not.

29 thoughts on “Crime and Punishment”

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