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Dying To Escape

Like many of you, I have been following the Jodi Arias trial fairly closely, getting updates via Twitter and through various news sites.  Her defense that she committed the crime of murder because she was abused, threatened, and afraid is one that can definitely be justifiable.  Anyone who is in fear for their own life has the right to defend themselves against whatever is threatening it.  Unfortunately for Arias, her defense is full of more holes than anyone can count and her excuses surely won’t fly; I predict a guilty verdict in her near future.  That said, what are we to think in a situation where the only way out of a terrible place is to harm another human being, possibly to the point where that person’s life is lost?

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I am one of many people who have been stuck in an abusive relationship.  I was battered, beaten, and very fearful.  It was a low point in my life and I felt that there was no escape from it; I was afraid to run because I did not know what the consequences would be.  Unlike Arias, I enlisted the help of family, friends, and the police to make my escape.  The only casualty in my run for freedom was a cheap toaster from Walmart that he smashed and possibly a couch that he was throwing around the room as I drove away with my belongings.  I had thought many times about fighting back, and did get a few swings in here and there, but killing the guy was not a thought that ever crossed my mind.  Making murder an option seems insane to me.

The issue of domestic violence is cheapened by Arias’s defense.  At this moment, there are women, men, children, and animals being abused or killed at the hands of a thoughtless lunatic who cannot control their anger or urges.  These innocents need to be recognized and need to be helped.  It’s disgusting for a person who is nothing but a cold-blooded killer to jump into the battered woman role simply because it may help a jury sympathize with her and possibly see her as not guilty of her crimes.  A frightened woman trying to defend herself does not stab a man almost 30 times, shoot him, and nearly decapitate him out of fear.  A frightened woman maybe gets one or two in before fleeing the scene in search of help.  A frightened woman does not invent a masked intruder to cover her tracks either, she spills her guts afterward and pleads for understanding.

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I can’t count how many females I’ve come across in my life who have sex with someone when they know they shouldn’t, maybe get pregnant or contract an STD, and then cry rape in order to make themselves seem innocent.  The result is that women who have actually been raped are looked at as liars because of all the women who lie about it.  I fear that the same thing will happen with domestic violence and women who choose to fight back if people like Arias continue throwing it out there as a cover for their terrible behavior and poor choices.  Taking it to a simpler form, for example, when you get one person who lies about a missed call and says the voicemail just didn’t go through, you begin to doubt every person who uses the same excuse.  It makes it much harder for the honest people to be seen as truthful when we have so many reasons to doubt.

Assuming for a moment that every claim Arias made about Travis Alexander is completely true and that he was a terrible abusive piece of dirt who didn’t deserve to live, what was stopping her from escaping the situation in a non-violence way?  Why didn’t she stop the “self-defense” at incapacitation rather than taking it to murder?  Why didn’t she seek support from family, friends, or law enforcement if she was truly afraid?  Why not seek counseling in order to gain the strength to leave him behind?  If all claims were true and Alexander was this horrendous person, is that enough to justify the brutal and senseless way he died?

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Homicide can be considered justified if it’s a matter of only one person getting out of the situation alive and having no other choice.  It is surely an impossible call to make and leaves you living with the fact that you took another person’s life.  It should only be considered as a last resort and isn’t something to be celebrated or enjoyed.  Arias not only wasn’t put in a situation where physically harming Alexander was the only escape, but she seems to have enjoyed killing him and doesn’t seem to have much remorse.  There should not be an excuse for this brutal crime, especially not the battered woman excuse.  Being abused is terrible, but it doesn’t give you the right to act equally as bad and then to use the abuse excuse as a way out.

The problem of domestic violence needs to be taken seriously and must not become a go-to excuse for people looking for a justification for their own bad decisions.  There is almost always a way out that does not involve any bloodshed, so long as the abused person is willing and able to seek out that escape route.  Women who were in the same situation that Arias alleges she was in should not turn to murder as a means of escape, they should simply escape.  When nothing is holding you back except for your own insecurities, there is no excuse for remaining in a bad situation and definitely no excuse for killing your abuser.  I honestly thought I was going to die a few times when trapped in my own abusive relationship.  But then I realized that “trapped” was the wrong word.  I chose to stay, and I could choose to leave.  Cutting those ties are hard and the pain is severe, but it sure as hell beats becoming a murderer and sitting in court at the mercy of my peers.  You don’t defeat evil by becoming evil yourself, and you sure as hell don’t pretend someone was evil in order to justify your own evil behavior.

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Truth, Justice, & The Italian Way

Yesterday, Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were acquitted of the murder of Meredith Kercher, overturning their previous convictions.  Rudy Guede’s separate appeal did not have the same result and his 16 year sentence was upheld.  It’s fairly obvious from comments from the Kercher family that they believe all three of these people held some responsibility for the death of their family member.  The most damning evidence was a bloody hand print from Guede under Meredith’s body as well as DNA evidence on her person, DNA evidence from Knox on the knife that was used in the murder, and DNA evidence from Sollecito on Meredith’s broken bra clasp.  While this seems like enough to uphold a conviction, the evidence was shown to not be as reliable as initially thought.

I truly feel for Meredith’s family and hope that they are able to find peace of mind and closure.  To have a family member die in such a violent manner, to have her violated as she was, has got to be heart wrenching.  It’s made even worse when two of the three people you believe to be guilty are set free, their time behind bars counted as time served for lesser crimes, the charge of murder dropped.  It must feel as though justice was not served, as though Meredith won’t be able to rest in peace because not everyone involved in her untimely death received the punishment that was due to them.  The fact that this trial received so much attention can’t help either.  Hopefully the family is left to mourn in peace and Meredith is remembered in a positive light.

The focus of this case has primarily been on Amanda Knox, who has been nicknamed “Foxy Knox” and compared to Jessica Rabbit from Who Framed Roger Rabbit by her own attorney.  I’ll admit, the one thing that stuck in my mind when first hearing about the trial was Amanda.  It wasn’t because I viewed her as the most important person, but because she was the primary focus of every news report.  Amanda Knox, the pretty girl from Seattle who was being unfairly treated overseas.  Knox, the femme fatale who killed her friend in a jealous rage.  Knox, the unwilling participant in a sexually driven blood bath.  No matter what the viewpoint, she always seemed to be smack dab in the middle with theories orbiting around her.

I imagine that some people feel an obligation of sorts to want Knox to be freed; a US citizen being prosecuted in another country doesn’t sit well with some, especially when you can’t be sure of how their legal system works and tend to assume that they would rather prosecute a foreign person than one of their own.  It’s easy to look at Knox and see a scared little girl, too innocent to be involved in something so violent.  It’s also easy to look at her and see a woman who is using her attractiveness to her advantage, knowing that she can bat her eyelashes and seem as good as gold.

One thing that confused me about this trial was the DNA evidence.  Initially, it was enough to convict all three of the accused in the murder of Meredith.  Now it appears that it was only enough to convict Rudy Guede.  I’m not going to dissect the case, you can do that on your own time if you desire, but it seems to me that DNA evidence is pretty straight forward proof that you were in a certain place or doing a certain activity.  It should be analyzed as soon as possible and recorded.  Part of the reason Knox and Sollecito had their murder convictions overturned was that the evidence was said to have been contaminated.  What I don’t understand is that if it was contaminated as they say, how could you still get a match?  DNA is quite different from one person to the next and it seems to me that contamination would result in a false negative match and NOT a false positive match, especially not for 2 people.

Now that Guede is the only person who has been convicted in Meredith’s murder, the race card players are coming out in full force.  Guede has maintained that the only thing he is guilty of is being in the flat during the murder and not doing more to help Meredith; he was not involved in harming her in any way.  Evidence strongly suggests that he was partially or fully responsible for her death, but his supporters still maintain that since he’s the lone black man out of the three accused, he is the natural scapegoat for the crime and has been wrongfully prosecuted.  The only fair stereotype I do see to lay on Guede is that it’s quite possible he’s guilty because he’s been in trouble with law enforcement prior to the murder.  I’d like to think that we don’t still exist in the separate water fountain era and an innocent man wouldn’t be convicted simply because he’s black and the only other options are white people.

If you’re waiting for my opinion on whether or not Knox and Sollecito are guilty or innocent, pull up a chair and get comfortable because I don’t have one.  I don’t even have an urge to form one because there are too many holes in the story that has been released to the public.  Meredith’s family stated that they would keep faith in the legal system and trust that the judges made the right call, and hopefully the truth will emerge eventually.  It was a graceful response to the result of the appeal and I believe it’s also the correct response.  Nothing is gained from crucifying Knox and Sollecito after the fact.  If they are guilty, it’ll catch up with them eventually.  If they are innocent, it’s a good thing that they’re finally free and can move on from this tragic event.

What we, the general and mostly ill-informed public, need to do right now is to back off a bit and quit trying to inject their opinions into what is now a closed matter.  The parties who have now been deemed innocent of the murder have the right to be able to move on with their lives without fear of retaliation from those who seek to carry out justice in their own way or who feel it’s appropriate to harass them for the crime they were cleared of.  Meredith’s family also deserves to be left alone to heal; they’ve been through more than enough as it is.  Life can be great, can sometimes give you lemons, and sometimes just plain out acts like a bully.  There is very little about this chain of events that can be called positive, but that’s life.  People die before their time, guilty ones get away and innocent ones sit behind bars, people get angry and sad and frustrated, then it ends and starts all over again with a different cast of characters.  This time around, can we please begin to resist the urge to obsess over things we can’t change and let these people fade into the background?

Let My People Go

Late in the day on Wednesday, September 21st, Troy Davis was put to death by lethal injection for the murder of off-duty police officer Mark MacPhail in Georgia back in 1989.  It was reported that in Savannah, Georgia, MacPhail was attempting to defend a man who was being assaulted when he was shot by Davis.  Witnesses claimed they either saw Davis shoot MacPhail or that Davis later confessed.  The murder weapon was not found, but ballistics linked the bullets near the scene to another shooting involving Davis.  He was convicted and sentenced to death.

I’m not going to get into a debate on whether or not Davis was guilty because I wasn’t there, I haven’t researched the case, and at this point it doesn’t really matter because Davis has been executed and you don’t exactly come back from that.  I also can’t debate because from the little bit I know about the case, I can’t form an opinion on his guilt or innocence.  I’m just not sure.

What I’m Hearing…..

“If I knew then what I know now,” Brenda Davis, one of the jurors in the trial told CNN in a 2009 interview, “Troy Davis would not be on Death Row. The verdict would be ‘not guilty.'” – IBTimes

The case against him consisted entirely of witness testimony which contained inconsistencies even at the time of the trial.  Many witnesses stated they were coersed or pressured into testifying or signing statements against him.  The state of Georgia has killed Troy Davis.  – AmnestyUSA

If Troy Davis had been a high school principal or a funeral home director or the proprietor of a soul food restaurant, he probably wouldn’t have landed in the middle of an investigation into a police officer’s murder. Had he been a member of Savannah’s black middle-class, he likely would have been treated with a bit more deference by the criminal justice system. – TheGrio

Questions of guilt or innocence seem almost beside the point when you consider the fact that people of color often receive more harsh sentences for the same crimes as whites, especially when the victim is white.  Author William Jelani Cobb said, “The implication is that a white life is worth more.” – Colorlines

What I Know…..

The justice system isn’t perfect.  I know this first hand; I have to jump through hoops right now to change my son’s last name because I don’t have permission from his deadbeat “father” who hasn’t bothered with either of us for nearly all of my son’s life.  Sometimes the safeguards that are in place to protect us actually serve to harm us.  Guilty people go free and innocent people are punished.  Sadly, there really isn’t much that can be done about it, as people will continue to lie and be creatively deceptive and others will continue to be in the wrong places at the wrong times.

Troy Davis was a black man in Georgia in the late 80s accused of a crime against a white man, who (no disrespect) kind of looks like Nicholas Cage.  Georgia probably didn’t have a sign up saying “WELCOME ALL BLACK PEOPLE!” during the time of the crime; when I moved there in 1997, there were still KKK rallies near my home and Grand Wizard Whatever-they’re-called proudly marching around town insulting anyone who wasn’t their shade of pale.  It’s not exactly a secret that racism exists and that it’s more prevalent in certain areas of the world.  Racism is a fact, but it’s not the culprit and the scapegoat for every injustice against a person of color.  That includes Mr. Davis.

The case against Davis didn’t conclude back in 1991 when the sentence was handed down.  It was appealed and revisited time and time again.  There was adequate time for evidence of his innocence to come to light in the 20 years that followed, as well as time for new eyes to view the evidence and fresh ears to hear witness testimony.  If the prosecution was acting irresponsibly or investigators weren’t doing their jobs, there was enough time to prove it and fix it.  It didn’t happen.  Not enough people seemed to care until the last few days of Davis’ life, when it was too late to really make something happen.

What Should Have Happened…..

Troy Davis may or may not have gunned down a cop, but either way I don’t see what the point was in putting him to death.  If the case was truly relying heavily on witnesses, what they have to say at this point doesn’t matter too much; even an event as significant as watching someone get shot is going to become fuzzy as the years pass, making it somewhat understandable that their story changed many years after the fact.  There are obviously many doubts in the case, which now has the attention of the nation.  Let’s say some ambitious lawyer decides to dive into the case and discovers indisputable proof of Davis’ innocence.  You can let a man out of jail if he’s proven innocent.  You can’t undo an execution.

I’m not against the death penalty at all either.  Some people deserve to die.  Serial rapist who killed half his victims and mentally scarred the other half?  Kill him.  Pedophile and murderer?  Dead please.  Burn down a building and kill half its occupants?  String him up!  Any serial killer (except for Dexter) deserves to die.  Sometimes the crime is so severe that the only worthy punishment is death.  The one big exception I see to this is when a police officer is killed; it turns into an immediate death sentence for the accused.  If you commit one murder, even if the one murder is a cop, you don’t deserve to die.  Maybe you were afraid, maybe you were being spiteful, maybe you were an idiot who thought it would be cool and immediately regretted it, but either way it doesn’t warrant a death sentence.  One murder equals a serious sentence and lots of time behind bars, but shouldn’t equal death at the hands of the state.

Troy Davis, guilty or innocent, did not deserve to be executed and it’s a shame it happened.  But it did and there isn’t anything that anyone can do to change that course of events.  He will disappear from the news in a couple of weeks and disappear from the thoughts of most people soon afterwards.  He shouldn’t be automatically made into a great man by his supporters nor should he be drug through the mud by those sure of his guilt.  This shouldn’t be turned into a racism issue; not every negative thing that happens to a black person is due to their skin.

What Now?

We shouldn’t be so quick to jump on the death penalty unless it’s evident that letting the person live is a severe danger to society and the prison community and there is NO other option.  The people who obsess and involve themselves in these cases should stop and learn the name(s) of the victim(s) and not just focus on how horrible the accused is.  Movements that start due to cases like this for the rights of certain groups shouldn’t fade away when the case fades and also shouldn’t appear simply because the case garnered some attention.  News outlets need to be more responsible in their reporting and not get editorial when they should be reporting facts.

As I said earlier, give this a couple of weeks and it’ll fade from the news, then fade from most of our minds.  Something else will happen that is deemed an injustice and the process will repeat.  Same ignorant responses, same wasted efforts, same silly protests outside the courthouse.  People will get involved and sign petitions and take donations and once the novelty of the case wears down or the case itself draws to a close, people will forget and the process will again repeat itself.  Again and again.  A couple of months from now, Troy Davis will just be the black guy from Georgia who killed the white cop with a great mustache.  Soon afterward, we’ll forget he existed.  We’ll be too busy with the next Casey Anthony, or maybe something will happen with Amanda Knox and that will matter again.  Whatever the focus is, I’m sure we’ll all be plenty busy offering up theories that don’t matter and claiming injustices that probably don’t exist.

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.  ~Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy

The Verdict Made My Head Explode

[Updated at 2:17 p.m.]  Casey Anthony has been found not guilty of first-degree murder in the 2008 death of her 2-year-old daughter Caylee. She was also found not guilty of aggravated child abuse and aggravated manslaughter. – CNN.com

[Updated at 2:20 p.m.] Casey Anthony has been found guilty of four counts of providing false information to law enforcement in the case of her 2-year-old daughter Caylee, who was slain in 2008. – CNN.com

[Updated at 2:22 p.m.] Casey Anthony has left the courtroom. – CNN.com

I’ve been following Casey’s story on and off from the beginning and I’ve followed the trial’s progression almost daily.  At first I had my doubts, but as more details of Casey’s behavior following Caylee’s disappearance emerged, the guiltier she got in my eyes.  Assuming the defense’s story about an accidental drowning was in fact true, how does a young mother who just discovered her child drowned, then assisted her father or at least knew her father covered up the accident to look like murder, go from grieving to partying so quickly?  Nights out at bars, getting a tattoo that means “the good life” or “beautiful life,” and acting like she doesn’t have a care in the world.  The only answer I see is that she got rid of her daughter, who she saw as a burden, and then felt free to live her life as she chose without a toddler holding her back.

The defense worked to discredit the prosecution’s evidence of a decomposing body in the trunk of Casey’s abandoned car and I guess the jury believed it.  It’s the defense team’s job to discredit everything in any way they can.  How did the jurors forget about that so quickly and decide Casey is blame free?  To me, this was a damning piece of evidence that Casey put Caylee’s body in her trunk and kept her there for a period of time prior to dumping the body.  The jury also seemed to forget about the internet searched for chloroform and other terms related to the little girl’s death.  Casey’s mom Cindy tried to claim that she made the searches (disproved by her time cards at work) which I saw as a mother’s desperate attempt to help her daughter who is facing the death penalty, but which unfortunately allowed some room for doubt.

I have zero doubt in my mind that Casey murdered her little girl.  I also have no doubt that the prosecution didn’t present a solid enough case for first degree murder.  The thing I don’t understand here is why the jury felt she should get off on the manslaughter and child abuse charges.  They didn’t deny that Casey was a liar, as they found her guilty of lying to law enforcement, so why absolve her of manslaughter and child abuse?  I’m not claiming to be an expert on anything here, but I believe there was enough evidence present to convict her on the manslaughter charge at the very least.  This chick killed her kid and all that’s being done is a conviction for being a liar, and a bad one at that.

Our justice system is fucked, plain and simple.  At the very least, Casey knows exactly what happened to her daughter, and at the most it was done at her hands.  This unnecessary tragedy will go unpunished because a system designed to protect the innocent is also a system that is easily manipulated to allow guilty folk to weasel out of trouble with the assistance of smooth talking attorneys.  At times, I long for years past, where Casey would have been strung up or stoned to death for murdering a baby instead of celebrating as I’m sure she is at this very moment.  I wouldn’t mind seeing the return of “an eye for an eye” justice, especially when the news is filled with stories of babies in microwaves or cages, people shooting and stabbing loved ones, and other horrific events.  I bet people would stop and think before running over their ex in a jealous rage if they knew that their punishment would be getting hit by a speeding car themselves.

I hope Casey enjoys her freedom once she’s released from jail (she can serve up to 4 years for lying to the police, credit for time served).  Karma is a spiteful bitch and it will catch up with her soon.  Murder of anyone is an unspeakable crime, but killing your own child?  You deserve nothing but the depths of hell for that one.

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