Friday, August 20, 2010

And Justice For All.......

Justice.......the administering of deserved punishment or reward............

Are we to assume that our judicial system can mete out justice fairly? I think all of us are aware that there is a different code of justice for some people. It is all in who you know and how much influence you can assert. Not fair, but, we all have seen it happen to those who are in the limelight. We all watch Law and Order, don't we? We see the system at work as portrayed by actors as it is ripped from the headlines. We see how hard the opposing sides try to win their case. Sometimes by devious tactics and sometimes with outright lies. In the end, though, there was a legal battle fought and their is a winner. Sometimes we watch as a plea bargain is bartered for whatever reasons. Is this justice? We see the whole case thrown out on a technicality. Some letter of the law not upheld properly. But the defendant's rights are always considered........


When the defendant is a juvenile, their rights are protected by their guardians (parents) and if that is not possible, then a guardian is appointed by the court. They also have the right to legal council whether they have the means to pay or not. I am sure there are many dedicated attorneys out there in this country who believe in our legal system and do their very best to uphold it. Then there is small town USA. The system is as good as the people involved in it. There are corrupt judges and lawyers, as well as those who would strive to be fair in the midst of it.


I know of a case where a young man at the age of 14 was brought into a police station and told to sign papers. He was young and scared and did what he was told to do. By following those instructions he was denied legal council and his guardian was unaware of his plight. He was questioned and confessed to a deed that he committed. He was tearful and contrite. It was a sex offence. He was charged as an adult. He told of some questionable behaviour on the part of the adults under whose care he was living. He admitted what he did and admitted that it was wrong. No investigation ensued. He was placed in a juvenile detention facility to await the outcome.


He was assigned an attorney through the public defenders office. The attorney encouraged him to take the plea bargain offered by the District Attorney's office. He was to remain in the custody of the juvenile facility until he was 21, then be placed on probation for 20 years, and register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. No therapy or counseling. He was told by this servant of the court that if he refused this bargain that he would go to prison and be raped by " big black dudes" . That night he tried to hang himself. A psych evaluation was called for and in the space of a 10 minute conversation it was determined that he was bi-polar and was prescribed a healthy cocktail of some powerful mood altering drugs. Still no consent from his legal guardian for any of this.


Finally that guardian is notified by the family he was in the care of and action was taken. All efforts to talk with the appointed attorney were met with refusal to discuss the case. He was being tried as an adult and although the young man was willing to waive the confidentiality agreement, cooperation was still withheld. The juvenile justice chief in that state had to be called upon to intervene and another attorney was assigned and tried to help. The tidy little system was disrupted and all attempts to persuade the court to consider extenuating circumstances yielded nothing. In the end a plea bargain was agreed upon. The young man was to remain locked up in the juvenile detention center until the age of 17, at which time he would be released to begin serving his term of 20 years probation. Some concessions were made. He would no longer have to register as a sex offender at the end of his probation and some of the stipulations regarding being around other juveniles were waived. The only juvenile he was not allowed to be near was the juvenile who willingly played a part in the crime.


Upon release from the facility he had to have a home and a job or he would go to jail. Sounds reasonable until you consider his age and lack of socialization. I am sure that being locked up with all manner of offenders does not prepare one for the job market. His first probation officer was pretty lax with the rules and as long as he caused no problems and checked in as scheduled he didn't care what he did. He bounced around from county to county, staying with anyone who would offer a home to him. Unable to leave the state in which the crime was committed, he was unable to go live with his legal guardians. Every county he lived in had a different set of rules to abide by. He was required to attend classes for sex offenders. From the description given of a couple of sessions, these classes sounded more like bragging sessions of the offenders.


He had limitations on where he could reside and work due to his status as a registered sex offender. This made life difficult and he had to call on family often to help him with living expenses. He finally ended up in a half-way house for drug addicts and had to attend AA and NA meetings daily in order to be able to stay. He accepted his punishment and started paying off his debt to society. He paid the state over $8000.00 and contacted attorneys to see if he could have a hearing before the judge. He was told that if he paid off his restitution and did not get into any trouble that his case would be reviewed and that he would most likely be taken off probation.


He has now paid for his crime with 6 years of his life and 8000 of his dollars that were hard earned. He has tried to follow every bit of advice from each of his probation officers. Recently his probation officer actually read the judges ruling and he was told he could live with his girlfriend. They planned to be married in October and were going to move into a rental trailer that her uncle had. The girl is pregnant. They were happily planning a life together, then about three days ago the probation officer told the young man that he made a mistake and that he would have to leave the house he was in immediately or be arrested. He was given the heads up because the probation officer would be in trouble for allowing him to move in with his girlfriend.


Now the young man is living with someone who is known by the probation officer. He is depressed and hopeless. Unable to have any contact with his girlfriend. She was hospitalized last night and is in fear of miscarrying the baby. Oh, he won't be allowed to see his own child. He did try for an audience with the judge, but was told he would have to hire an attorney. He can't afford one and being in the same county he was in when all this originated, the public defenders office won't help him.


Justice?

7 comments:

Brian Miller said...

tough case...sucks when people get caught in the net and cant find a way out...it happens though....feel for the girl too..she should not have to go through this alone...

@ly said...

I think we have one of the best systems around but I do believe this system fails people from time-to-time and this is certainly an example of it failing. Definitely not Justice.

jojo said...

tragically unjust...

SkippyMom said...

The problem with the juvenille court system is that the judges aren't held accountable for anything - there is never a record of any court proceeding [to protect the minor - HA] and they can make a judgement on whatever mood they are in that day. They can find some law to back up whatever it is they decided - it needs to be changed.

This story makes me ill, but I am not surprised. I would've been even less surprised if I knew you were in VA.

If there is anything I can do kathy, don't hesitate to email me.
Take care.

ellen abbott said...

totally unjust. consensual sex between minors is not a sex crime. I hate that term...sex offender. It covers everything from consensual minors to the most heinous abuse of a child by a parent or other. We flood our culture with pictures of near naked men and women, sex exudes out of every advertisement to sell the product and then we decide on some arbitrary age when it is legal to have sex. What!? Unfortunately he is not the first young man to have his life ruined because he and his girlfriend had a little 'illegal' sex. What a fucked up system.

otin said...

Tough to brand a 14 year old a habitual sex offender. Seems a little unjust.

Pat said...

Things are not always black and white. This juvenile wasn't treated fairly in the beginning. I hate to hear stories like this!