Original post here with links
Justice is a word that has a different meaning for nearly everyone. One person might define justice as achieving a fair resolution through the court system, while another might perceive it to mean balancing a wrong through an action or punishment.
In America there is a division when it comes to crime and punishment. Many believe that if a person takes the life of someone else the only suitable punishment is life in prison or the death penalty. Other people take into account the circumstances surrounding the death, the person who committed the crime, and other factors.
It becomes the most difficult to seek justice when a person becomes emotionally invested in the outcome. It is difficult to balance one’s desire to punishment with the need to show fairness and compassion. This, in a nutshell, defines the American culture (or lack thereof) and provides insight into why some cases capture the attention of the public and make the factions in their way of thinking so salient.
Take the Trayvon Martin case. What is justice when is comes to Trayvon and his family? Is justice the seeking of a fair and impartial resolution through the court system? If so, is it even possible to achieve this at this point? The case is being actively tried in the media, without access to all of the documentation that might allow the public to make a truly fair assessment of the situation.
One thing is clear when it comes to Trayvon Martin’s sad situation and that is a young man is dead and few people have any real answers about how it happened, why, and what would need to occur to ensure justice for those closest to the matter.
Some people are calling for the death of George Zimmerman. It cannot be lost on most people that this is the true height of hypocrisy – to demand the death of one person these individuals deem responsible for the death of another. If George Zimmerman is accused of taking the law into his own hands – of acting violently when there were other options – then what does it mean when people publicly call for his own murder?
How can people say it is wrong to kill someone and then seek to incite violence on the person they are accusing? I hope someone will explain this to me. I also wonder why this behavior is tolerated. There is a $10,000 bounty on Zimmerman’s head, issued by the New Black Panthers. There is a petition supported by change.org’s Jonathan Perri that provides very selective updates on the case. For example, Perri posted when President Obama made a statement about the case and he also commented on the highly contentious police video that was released failing to show injuries on Zimmerman. Perri wrote, “The quality of the video is not very high, but it appears to suggest that if Zimmerman was injured that night, the injuries were not serious.”
Perri does not explain what he wants people to do with that information or with his personal take on it. But his lack of providing a fuller picture of the entire case speaks clearly.
What is it that Perri wants people to do? Is change.org trying to further provoke the tension that is mounting in America over this highly contentious issue? If so, to what end? More importantly, does the organization care at all if true justice is served? I have to wonder what their own role in all of this is when it comes to obstructing justice. Perri would probably say he is raising awareness, but raising awareness is presenting all sides of an issue so that the public is informed enough to make an intelligent decision.
Change.org is behaving somewhat recklessly in this regard. This is an organization that refuses to create a section for children’s rights, even though its own members have petitions for it. Do they really care about Trayvon or are they just another party inciting more violence through subtle and calculating methods? The organization has sent out not one, but two blast emails asking its millions of members to sign the Trayvon Martin petition. This is how they operate. When they support a petition they consult with “analysts” and ask them if the petition is worthy of bringing to the public’s attention. If the analysts say no it means the petition will not be featured and no mass emails will be sent.
Has this movement inspired hate, helped to bring together communities, or merely managed to further divide an already alienated society? I mean, there’s already a twitter account calling for people to kill Zimmerman.
There has to be a point when the local, state, and federal governments say enough is enough. If the government allows people to behave so carelessly and recklessly the result will be violence. Someone will almost certainly end up dead.
I have to believe that is not what the mass majority had or even have in mind when they envision achieving justice for Trayvon.
Now contrast this with another case that State Attorney Angela Corey is prosecuting. Cristian Fernandez was 12 years old when he was charged in the unintentional death of his brother. Instead of seeking a manslaughter charge or something in line with the crime Corey felt was committed, the State Attorney sought an indictment for murder and aggravated child abuse. The combination of these two charges is the reason Cristian faces the mandatory sentence of life without parole is he is convicted.
Angela Corey’s actions suggest that she envisions justice to mean taking the life of a child by sending him to prison for life. She consistently states this was never her intention and that she offered the public defenders a plea bargain, but she fails to discuss how the plea bargain would have likely exposed Cristian to three additional years in prison following incarceration in a juvenile facility until he turned 18. Even worse, the deal would have branded Cristian a murderer for life. If a death in unintentional and there are multiple other contributors, how is a murder conviction even appropriate?
The true nature of Corey’s motives were revealed when she announced that she would be bringing a third indictment against the child in response to his defense rejecting the deal. She knew about this charge since early in the investigation and yet she delayed bringing the charge. Her explanation for this was that the defense asked her to do that. I asked Matt Shirk and another person who worked for the defense if this was true. I was told it was absolutely false. I was also informed that the media was provided with this information but they failed to print it. Why?
Another example of the media acting irresponsibly? Failing to present the full picture to the public and helping to incite violence, aggression, and intolerance? Maybe change.org should be viewed more as a media outlet instead of an organization seeking to facilitate positive social change. Because I don’t see the fallout in the wake of Trayvon’s death as positive.
Sometimes people who support Angela Corey point out to me that Cristian’s petition only has 184,000 signatures and that there are other much more successful petitions. To that, I always give the same response. Trying a child Cristian’s age as an adult is wrong. Just because something is legal certainly doesn’t make it moral or ethical. It does not matter if no one agrees with me, one person agrees, or one billion people agree. That will never change a matter of simple right and wrong.
Children are not adults. Justice is not served by sentencing a child to life without parole when others could have prevented the death of the child in question. The system failed Cristian and his family across the board. His mother admitted to failing to seek medical help for her son for what has now been revealed to be eight hours. Cristian’s attorney, Hank Coxe, said it best when he responded to Cristian’s mother putting in a plea of guilty for the lesser manslaughter charge she faced in connection with David’s death:
"The person who admitted responsibility for the death of her 2-year old son, David, pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Apparently the doctors who treated David said he would have survived if he had received medical care sooner. Instead, his own mother waited for eight hours to seek medical attention causing the death of her son. Her 13-year-old son, Cristian, continues to face adult first-degree murder charges, which carries a mandatory life sentence, yet his mother pleads guilty to a much lesser charge. We will deal with this in the courtroom."
I want justice for Cristian. I believe that children are different than adults. He should not be facing more severe penalties than the very person who was legally obligated to protect her children and care for them, but did not do it. However, the situation is tragic all the way around when you think about it.
Do enough people care? My advocacy efforts do not appear to be enough to save this child from a prosecutor who wants him to pay to the full extent of the law, regardless of the circumstances surrounding his case. Can Cristian’s attorneys save him? His life is quite literally in their hands now.
Finally, are we a society that values punishment over redemption? Vengeance over forgiveness? Hate over compassion?
I can’t answer that. I want to believe we are a nation who chooses the latter in all situations, but that is not what I am observing these days at all. It’s disturbing.