A post in which I open a giant can of worms and let them crawl all over the place because I have no answers, but just think these issues are important and should be examined.
I got most of these articles from a friend I didn’t [remember] used google buzz, and was almost sad I’d clicked over, because they’re so tragic, really, but also amazing. I’m wondering why they didn’t get more press and attention. This friend was a public defender for Colorado – just to give you an idea of the background.
First, is an article about Judy Clarke. Most people probably don’t know who she is, but I imagine everyone knows about her current client – Jared Lee Loughner. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, he’s the guy responsible for the shootings in Tuscon, Arizona. Do I think what JLL did was wrong? Most definitely. Do I think he should be punished? Of course. Do I think he should die for it… well honestly, I don’t know. That’s not the point – the point is, I believe in the system, and that he should get fair representation. I haven’t been following it closely, but I imagine his best bet would be a bench trial.
What I’m trying to say here is, this is food for thought. We rarely think about the system from the perspective of the defendant. And it’s tough being a public defender. In many cases, it’s a losing battle, whether or not the client committed the crime or deserves such a harsh charge.
Here are two more sympathetic examples. This first one made me cry.
Why does something like this only have 325,211 views? Especially considering how many years it’s been around? And a quick click to the youtube home page shows a video of a rabbit passing gas has 2,732,145 views. This makes me sad. I found the video in the article here – and yes, there have been some changes. She’s 33 years old. On his last day as governor, Schwarzenegger commuted Kruzan’s sentence to 25 years to life in prison with the possibility of parole. I’m glad for the … lesser sentence? But it still makes my head and my heart hurt.
Something else more people have been talking about recently that has been discussed widely here (it’s local enough) is… a woman who was sentenced to ten years for sending her children to a school district where they weren’t residents. I would like to point out that it was two sentences to be served concurrently, so five years but… I really do think they (the judge) threw the book at her. Williams-Bolar’s attorney asked the judge for community control, and the prosecutor “wasn’t opposed to it.” Williams-Bolar is in college trying to become a teacher. Because of this felony conviction she won’t be able to get a teaching license in the state.
I wonder if this issue will be appealed. I believe that Williams-Bolar had already taken her children out of the Copley school system prior to this case… but the last paragraph of the article gets me. A $100 reward for outing wrongfully enrolled students. I just… I don’t know.
And here’s yet another reason it’s important to step back and allow for trial and evidence, and a proper defense. Sometimes – especially when a heinous crime is committed- we’re all too eager to find the culprit. Someone responsible, and to punish them. This is rather a story of too little too late. The title of the article really says it all: Innocent Man Is Pardoned 72 Years After His Execution. Does this show a new trend or change? At least in Colorado? This is also relevant in light of the “retard” articles and discussions. And may I submit “lame” to the same group?
Back to the child issue. There’s this quote that just kills me, from this article:
… more than 2,400 youth offenders in the U.S. serving sentences of life without parole, 60 percent of them African American and the majority first-time offenders. Twenty-six percent were sentenced under felony murder laws that punish children who were party to a crime like robbery where; in Florida, one child whose friend broke a window with a rock is being held responsible for the fact the homeowner responded by shooting and killing him.
Many of you know I have a “part time job” as a Street Law Jr. instructor and… it just… I worry about my kids. 🙁
What are your thoughts? Had you heard of any of these cases? Know of any others? What are your pet projects? Does this change your idea or view of our justice system? I know I leave a lot out/don’t explain much… (incidentally, don’t expect that to change).
Does this even matter?
As this is all sad… I’m going with a quote from Perske (the man who made pardoning Arridy – the man from Colorado- his mission):
If you face a tough situation and give up too quickly, you may miss out on a fantastic conclusion.
So personally, I say yes. It matters. It matters that it happens. It matters in that we should care. And try to do something about it. This is why the news, and being aware of world affairs matters. Yes?
These cases (all of which I’d heard of) just break my heart. I posted about the Ohio case on my Facebook because it made me so sad. And I guess I was hoping that if there was enough public outcry maybe the appeal would go better. Someone who is trying to better her own life by going to school, and the lives of her children. We’re really going to punish a woman with a 10 year sentence for trying to better her children’s lives? Yes, it was wrong, but I know I have friends who use someone else’s address to get their kids into the school they want (and they aren’t even related – this was their grandfather FCOL). I guarantee you that my white middle class friends wouldn’t get a 10 year felony conviction for the same crime.
And that poor girl. I hope she’s granted parole at her first hearing. I really do. There are so many ruthless criminals being let out of jail here in California because of overcrowding, and we keep an abused girl who has managed to still make something of herself despite all those years in prison – we keep her in jail? Forever? I wonder what that says about us as a people. So wrong. At least her sentence was commuted.
Thank you for bringing these women to the attention of many who otherwise wouldn’t have known about them.
Lori – I’m hoping the Ohio case is appealed. I’d have to brush up that… but it’s within what’s on the statute…. for all that Akron is rather integrated I see a lot of subtle racism – really prevalent as I was trying to teach Feiner v. NY…
I really hope the girl in CA is let out of prison soon. At least she has a chance now, right? But… it doesn’t matter so much if she’s never given it…
It’s tough out there.
Yes, it sure does matter. The upside is that today’s media make it harder to sweep this stuff under the rug. As depressing as it is, thank you for continuing the conversation.
Phyl – agreed. I definitely wouldn’t have known about these issue without the internet. And it makes sharing the new and the work for Human Rights orgs/watches a bit easier… [Not to say I agree with all orgs…]
It is depressing, isn’t it? Sometimes what depresses me more is you hardly hear about stuff like this, but can’t get away from something ridiculous, like what Snooki did. >.<
It absolutely matters. Our criminal “justice” system creates a lot of injustice, and sometimes it takes public outcry or dedicated individual involvement (or both) to rectify. I don’t believe human beings are capable of designing a perfect system, though; the best we can do is be mindful and try to see that real justice is served.
With some of these cases I really wonder what judge or jury were thinking. “Let the punishment fix the crime” is subjective, sure, but some extremes seem like they should be obvious.
Yes! Definitely don’t think a perfect system is possible (is that sad? Or just pragmatic?)
For the Ohio case… it was pretty clear why the jury returned with a guilty verdict, I think. The sentencing though… really wonder about Judge Cosgrove.
Also, looking at it from the defendant’s side I think often changes how people view “the system” in general. Unfortunately we only hear about the loopholes and how someone terrible was let go – but not about how it ends up saving a lot of innocent people or those that shouldn’t have been charged so seriously… Sigh.
I just don’t see how jail time for lying about your school district is fair. To anyone. It’s a harsh sentence for the mother, the children, even for the taxpayers. It’s hardly equal with armed robbery, for crying out loud.
The logic in these things defies me.
Julia – yes, I’ve been hearing about this case for a few weeks – the closest major network news is near enough to have picked it up… (actually I was kinda surprised to see it mentioned on twitter yesterday…)
And I agree. A lot on the rule books should be changed. Too often a crime doesn’t match well with the punishment, and you can link the latter as targeting a certain group.
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Definitely a thought provoking post, Lime. Wrongful convictions and sentences that are disproportionate to the crime create some of the most heartbreaking situations in our country. The one in Ohio is especially maddening. But the more we get the word out about stuff like this the better chance there is that we can stop it from happening again.
Thanks, Manda. The CA case I posted about in a way resonated most with me. :X Kinda strange cuz um, the school district where the Ohio women’s children shoulda gone? Right by one of “my” schools. I don’t kid when I say I teach in the ghetto. 🙁 Poor kidlets.
Okay…this article just …it made me think. Its kind of sad what’s been happening in the world of late.
It also made me a little sad which when I think about it makes me feel good because I haven’t been hardened enough not to care anymore and that in my book would have been tragic.
*big hugs* Marnie – with so much tragedy going on internationally, it’s hard to keep up, and definitely too easy to let what’s happening in our own back yard slip by.
As for the second – I agree. I debated about adding a little note/chastising those who proudly say they ignore the news/don’t care what’s happening in the world… I mean, it’s not my place to judge, but I’ve never agreed with that outlook even though at times I definitely understand it. It would just be nice some days, if not many, to shut the world out, crawl under the covers, and stay there.
I hate laws that allow men to be punished for a lifetime for non-criminal things they did as teens.
Men and women! I’m really curious about the CA judge. And trying to wrack my brain and think if I know anyone who interned with Cosgrove. Is it safe to say society is becoming less and less human these days? :
Wow… very thought provoking post, Lime… Sara Kruzan’s case, and others you mentioned are very sad to read about. And the lady being sentenced to ten years for sending her kids to another school districts, eesh.
Sad isn’t it? To me, it was a great reminder of why there are so many fail safes etc in the system – ideally to keep stuff like this from happening, not to let “the bad guys” go free.