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Just Me

"Without Passion or Prejudice"

Posted on 2009.10.01 at 07:21
Science Fiction legend Larry Niven once wrote, "Murder is a recent invention — as distinctly opposed to killing a man who has armed relatives."

This telling little sentence says a lot about civilization, says a lot, specifically, about Justice. Before there was a system of Justice, there was only revenge. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

We've learned since then, we've become wiser and truer and more godlike, and one of the chief examples of this is that we've created Justice, a system of laws, that exists to regulate conduct among people in our society to try to see to it that all are treated fairly, that acts which are bad for the community are discouraged, and that those who prey upon others are similarly discouraged, by creating and enforcing consequences of those acts that are greater than the benefits to the actor.

I truly believe that this, this distancing of Justice from Revenge, is what sets humankind apart from "lesser creatures."

So it is that I have been increasingly unsettled by our system of Justice's ceding greater and greater roles to victims in deciding punishments. That's a very bad precedent to set, because victims, whatever they say, don't want justice. They want revenge.

Ted Koppel, trying to wring an emotional reaction from Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis during his Presidential bid, provoked him, in the famous "You just don't get it" exchange, with the question of what he'd want in a hypothetical situation in which his wife or daughter were raped and murdered. Dukakis responded with great intellectual precision, but he did indeed punt the question. The answer is, of course, "I'd want to kill them. I'd want to strip the flesh from their bodies and roll them in salt, lower them feet-first into a wood chipper a quarter-inch at a time and laugh while I pissed into their screaming mouths. That's why we have a system of justice: So I won't get what I want, because all I would want would be cheap vengeance."

To keep from being savage vengeance, no better than any beast of the jungles, Justice must be administered without passion or prejudice. What is they law, what is the evidence? That's all.

This week, 30 years after fleeing the United States to avoid sentencing and punishment for a crime to which he pled guilty, Oscar-Winning director Roman Polanski was arrested in Switzerland, where he awaits extradition to the U.S. for sentencing and carrying out of his sentence.

This is a very simple case. Convicted of a crime, a man fled the country to avoid punishment. There's no room for controversy here. He goes to jail.

But I find I am uncomfortable with the responses of many.

I am, of course, baffled and angered by the army of celebrities who have signed "Free Roman Polanski" petitions. It's not like there's doubt of his guilt. He pled guilty!

But I am also disturbed by the vengefulness of many who rail against Polanski, screaming, it seems, not for imprisonment, but for his blood.

Now, don't misunderstand me: His crime is one deserving of rage. I have to believe that his celebrity supporters don't really know what the crime itself was, and think it was akin to his relationship with then-15-year-old Nastassia Kinski. I have to believe that they don't realize -- or didn't when they voiced their support -- that he drugged a 13-year-old girl, and forced himself sexually on her, orally, vaginally, and anally, ignoring her telling him "No." If you know that he did that, and don't feel rage, I'm pretty sickened by you.

But that rage should not be part of the process of Justice. There is no question of guilt or innocence. Polanski, by his own admission, is guilty.

And he should face Justice, without passion or prejudice.

Because that way, all know, without question, without doubt, that he was sentenced fairly, and none can argue that he received, not Justice, but Vengeance.


you know it's true
miss_diverse at 2009-10-01 12:03 (UTC) (Link)
Hear hear!
mrsquizzical at 2009-10-01 12:18 (UTC) (Link)
yes. this.
nakeefeet at 2009-10-01 12:27 (UTC) (Link)
Yes, yes, yes.
Machiavellian Puppet Master
tjs_whatnot at 2009-10-01 12:30 (UTC) (Link)
Yes. Although, I wonder if there hadn't been so many people (and frankly so many of them broke even my heart as people I respected) saying, Let him go, would we have so much vehement cries for his head on a platter. It seems to me that most of the hate is directed onto a society that questioned if it was even a crime if you're artistic and it happened so long ago.

I just want it to be over and for justice to be served so this poor woman can get on with her life.
Jonathan Andrew Sheen
leviathan0999 at 2009-10-01 17:23 (UTC) (Link)
As I said, I have to believe that the "Free Roman" crowd didn't understand the specifics of his crime. I have to assume they thought it was a case of a grown man having sex with a 15-going-on-30 temptress, one who, like teenaged Nora Louise Kuzma (more famous as underaged porn star Traci Lords) knew exactly what she was doing and wanted to do it.

I have to believe that, because to think that David Heyman and Allfonso Cuaron knew he'd drugged and forcibly raped a 13-yeard-old over her clearly-stated rejection, and still signed that petition, I'd have to throw up.
The Hysterical Hystorian
abigail89 at 2009-10-01 12:45 (UTC) (Link)
This? FTW.

I absolutely agree. Cripes, the guy enters a guilty verdict, he should expect a sentence. And, oh yeah, jail time. What he did is despicable. Period. I'm glad the victim has moved on with her life and is apparently whole and healthy, but the justice system also serves to instruct. This sort of behavior is UNACCEPTABLE and therefore must be punished. Just because you make films doesn't mean you are above the law. End of story.

I am truly disappointed in the entertainment industry. What they should be advocating is justice for the victim AND Polanski, because it looks like the case should be viewed. But we should allow the justice system to work.

Nicely done.
sgt_majorette at 2009-10-01 14:23 (UTC) (Link)

Publicity Like This You Can't *Buy*

It's the media that has to answer to the victim for the pain they thoughtlessly and cynically continue to inflict on her. Justice would involve bringing Polanski back to the US in cuffs, without fanfare, and quietly put where he belongs to serve his sentence.

Media blackout.

What, the government can't manage a coverup on this, where it would be entirely appropriate?
808 at 2009-10-01 15:01 (UTC) (Link)
I agree with your core points 100%! But I have some things to add in terms of this specific case: 1. Polanski didn't have access to justice. There is admitted corruption by the prosecutors and judge in this case. The judge met with the prosecutor privately to sentence Polanski to a sentence that is far above what is considered a normal sentence for the crime at the time. That is just one example of many prosecutorial and judicial mistakes. 2. It's now 30+ years later and even the victim wishes this would go away. She says every time the government pursues this it hurts her and her family. She made a statement years ago forgiving Polanski and she supporting his academy award and has taken ads out in papers asking the police to stop this.

No doubt he is or was a pedophile and a cretin and in a normal situation I agree with you. But this is an abnormal situation due to the damage caused to the victim's family, the time lapse and the corruption. Frankly, I can't think of any proper solution. He deserves punishment, but he also deserves a fair trial (as you say) and he won't get it and the victim also deserves some protection from this mess. Note that just last year his counsel requested the case be moved to a new jurisdiction for the precise reason of getting a fair trial - it was denied (and is now being appealed).

That brings up a different question. You say victims should have no input over punishment (which I agree with). Do you think if a victim forgives someone/requests leniency on their behalf then that should be considered by the judge or should it also be off limits?
Jonathan Andrew Sheen
leviathan0999 at 2009-10-01 17:16 (UTC) (Link)
No doubt he is or was a pedophile and a cretin and in a normal situation I agree with you

See, his being a Pedophile (which characterization I don't necessarily agree with, btw; there's a substantive difference between being sexually attracted to members of one's orientation-appropriate gender at the budding of their sexuality, and the pathology where the sexlessness of pre-pubescent childhood is a replacement for gender in triggering arousal) and/or Cretin doesn't enter into it for me, nor does any prosecutorial nor judicial misconduct. That's kind of the whole point of my post. You don't get to flee the country to avoid punishment. If there's misconduct, you fight that through legal channels. Fleeing the country makes him just another candidate for "America's Most Wanted."

Do you think if a victim forgives someone/requests leniency on their behalf then that should be considered by the judge or should it also be off limits?

I have a very hard time with this question, but I lean toward "also off limits." Especially in this case, where one of the crimes that must be dealt with is illegal flight to avoid prosecution. But one victim forgiving a predator does nothing to protect future potential victims, and that's an important point as well.
isha_libran at 2009-10-01 20:12 (UTC) (Link)
Agreed. On all points.

And mygod, I never knew that was what he was guilty of. Now I feel sick. :/
uk_sef at 2009-10-02 09:30 (UTC) (Link)
I'd want to strip the flesh from their bodies and roll them in salt
Rather freakily, that's the same thing being said of a serial child-abusing nursery-worker.
Jonathan Andrew Sheen
leviathan0999 at 2009-10-02 11:30 (UTC) (Link)
I promise, I had not seen that article, nor other coverage of that story. Wild coincidence, though.
i_m_b00 at 2009-10-02 21:07 (UTC) (Link)
He already walked. and the bastard is going to walk again. the world makes me sick on some days. on other days I just harder.

I have worked with so many women who don't want to go to court and I don't blame them. I understand why she doesn't want to go back to court but damn it still pisses me off

Edited at 2009-10-02 09:10 pm (UTC)
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