Yes cheating is awful. And so is conviction before a fair trial. I believe every accused person deserves a fair trial under a set of laws that promises to be just and balanced. I don’t support public hangings. It is barbaric. Never have and never will. I didn’t in the horrendous Nichols and Johnston murder cases though some of my political advisors thought I could improve my voter favorability if I did. I didn’t then and I won’t now. The eagerness to convict someone cannot take precedence over our demand and respect for the fundamental legal principle that everyone who is charged has a right to a fair trial with competent representation.
Some 50 plus years ago in grade school, I learned about America’s judicial systems and principles of law and my parents reinforced these principles throughout my childhood. Frequently Ruth, my mom, said, “everything that glitters isn’t gold.” Reminding me to think about the circumstances and situation instead of its appearance. My father’s life was full of challenges and a spectacular recovery from alcoholism (that is how he described it) and as a Pennsylvania State Court judge he never wavered in his teaching that,” under the law everyone in America deserves a fair trial and competent representation. And everyone charged with wrongdoing or a crime is not guilty”. These early lessons in discernment stick with me today. My parents still expect me to act according to these principles and to stand up for them as fundamental values in my life.
As hard as it may be to hold true to these principles now——these are precisely the times that test our commitment to our values. I worry about these principles whenever young or poor people are charged with crimes because I know how few legal resources they have to defend themselves and how dogged the prosecution process can be. Even if they are cleared in a court of law, some will face financial ruin. Our system of justice isn’t perfect and requires checks and balances to mitigate against its imperfections.
Prosecutors, judges and jurors make mistakes and overreach. The media can too easily slip into business mode reporting only one side of the story or as if ratings, trending and profit matter most.
For those who think it is too dangerous to push back or speak up when we read or hear the horrendous public assaults on APS. You would be right– it is. I know first-hand. Rabid bloggers have come out of the woodwork to attack me, my family and my opinions but few will address the issues I have raised.
How else do we protect our democracy than to demand respect of the principles of fairness and justice even in challenging times? If you agree don’t worry about posting on this blog or talking with your neighbors and coworkers, say a prayer for a fair trial for all those charged, say a prayer for every family and child who has been touched by the scandal and say a prayer to calm the public lynching mob mentality that has begun. In times like this, reflection and soul-searching are powerful tools to ground our actions and decision-making.