Monday, April 30, 2007

Reade Seligmann Writes

Duke non-Rape survivor Reade Seligmann writes the blog-world via KC Johnson's place. He thanks the bloggers, but then goes on to write about his new mission that he hopes bloggers will share:

You have all waged a war against prosecutorial misconduct and exposed Mike Nifong, Crystal Mangum, the Durham Police Department as well as all of the other peripheral characters involved. We must continue to fight for those who do not have a voice and will never have the opportunity to sit in front of a national audience to declare their innocence.

You have all done so much for our families and we can never truly express to you how thankful we are. Now is the time for you to put to use all of the same passion, thoughtfulness, and resolve you have demonstrated on our behalf and help others who are in much more helpless situations.

I can think of a couple cases, one in particular, that still has me upset. That is the case of the Texas border patrol agents tossed in prison for shooting a known illegal alien drug runner in the butt while he tried to flee the scene. He was given lifetime immunity to testify against the agents. And now, the agents (one who has already been abused) rot in federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison. And no, I'm not making light of this issue.

Beyond false prosecutions, police officer malfeasance, and trumped up charges, and don't forget jury manipulation, the non-criminal must go to prison. Rape is an accepted part of prison in America. Those who hold the eye-for-an-eye mentality might think rape is a fair payment for crimes like rape and murder. But it's not the most criminal who are on the receiving end of the abuse. It's these guys according to Human Right's Watch:
Certain prisoners are targeted for sexual exploitation the moment they enter a penal facility: their age, looks, sexual orientation, and other characteristics mark them as candidates for abuse. Human Rights Watch's research revealed a broad range of factors that correlate with increased vulnerability to rape. These include youth, small size, and physical weakness; being white, gay, or a first offender; possessing "feminine" characteristics such as long hair or a high voice; being unassertive, unaggressive, shy, intellectual, not street-smart, or "passive"; or having been convicted of a sexual offense against a minor.
Imagine if the three innocent young men from Duke had ended up in prison. Is there any question what would happen to them?

It seems to me that the judicial system is upside down. With more laws on the books than ever before, few people can stay within the confines of the law. That is, if the government wants to nab a person for something, its representatives don't have to work to hard to do it. The police have earned a reputation as evidence-planting, easily-bought bad guys themselves--even though I think that the vast majority of police officers do not deserve that reputation. Still, every case where the police act like those in Atlanta and Durham undermines them all. On to the District Attorneys running amok. If Tom DeLay can be taken down by a political hack, who isn't vulnerable? And, of course, Nifong defines prosecutorial misconduct. Suppressing evidence, neglecting to interview the accuser, the list goes on and on. The problem is that no one believes he's an American aberration. No, people fear that guys like him are all too common. North Carolina's grand jury laws also defy explanation. Ronnie Earl would be in hog heaven in North Carolina. If the accused person can't afford superlative attorneys like the Duke families could, he or she is in big trouble. All the DA needs is a jury filled with people of below-average I.Q. and the case is decided.

I worried about the Duke case going to trial. Even though the evidence clearly exonerated them, I wasn't sure that a fair trial was even possible in a city so stoked by racial tension. The jury pool would be that majority who voted for Nifong, remember, even after all the evidence point to their innocence. The community (and the faculty of Duke) had a stake in Nifong being right. They look like fools if he's wrong. Fools.

The American legal system's parts and pieces make for a distressing picture taken together. Technology makes finding the truth easier, but it's not iron-clad. Many cases are circumstantial and built around other evidence. Citizens have to trust the police integrity and the justice system's judges and prosecutors. Seligmann is right. The bright light needs to continue to shine on cases like theirs. Guys like KC Johnson have revolutionized the way the justice system is covered. The bloggers, lead by Johnson, helped free innocent men. The major media largely bought the narrative and revealed their bias with a few notable exceptions. Unfortunately, there are more guys like the Duke players who struggle without an advocate. I'm glad Reade Seligmann found his calling. The world needs guys like him and Johnson.

Oh, and Reade, I am so happy for your mother. I hope all the parents get to take a long vacation after this abominable episode.

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