If you’re a movie buff of a certain age, you’ll remember a film called The Mouse That Roared, in which a tiny, debt-ridden country declares war against the United States in order to gain all the benefits that would be showered their way as the losers. It was a sharp little satire that unfortunately persists in ringing true to this day. It comes to mind not only with respect to foreign policy, but also with how we deal with criminals and terrorists. In today’s paper we learned that the state of New Jersey continued to pay 23 million dollars of entitlements and benefits to incarcerated people who were not entitled to any of it while in jail. This should aptly be considered “criminal negligence” and heads should roll all the way to the diminishing hulk of the governor. More disturbing in today’s news is the ongoing saga of Nidal Hasan, the Muslim army psychiatrist who shot 45 people at Fort Hood in 2009, killing 12 and severely injuring the rest. It is four years later and though Hasan is incarcerated, he has still not been tried for this heinous act of terrorism. During the past years of legal stalling, he has collected $280,000 of salary, because according to our American system of justice and the vagaries of military protocol, he is entitled to his money until proven guilty. No matter that there is no disputing who pulled the trigger each time during his rampage - the only thing to be determined at trial is what degree of murder this fits and what the appropriate sentence will be. If common sense prevailed, would a terrorist still get paid?
Further adding to the head-scratching wonder of this case, Hasan has won the right to grow and sport a bushy beard though that is against army regulations. Now a hemiplegic and wheelchair-bound, he has petitioned the court to allow him to represent himself in his upcoming trial in July. To determine whether he would be physically competent to handle this, the judge ordered a medical examination. In another questionable accommodation, the judge agreed to Hasan’s request to not be examined by the chief of medicine where he used to work. In short, Hasan first killed and maimed the soldiers of Fort Hood and now demands that his trial not be compromised by the judgment of the medical officer under whom he served. This used to be the classic definition of chutzpah - the murderer who shoots his parents and begs the mercy of the court because he is now an orphan. Does this make sense?
In another high profile case that will come to trial soon, that of George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin in Florida, both defense and prosecution have agreed to the sequestration of the jury, a decision that the judge will make. This means that in order to insure the right of one person to a fair trial by a jury of his peers, twelve people will be held hostage and removed from their families and friends for as long as it takes to reach a verdict. If common sense prevailed, any trial considered this incendiary would have a change of venue where local publicity would be neutralized by distance from the crime. Moving one person seems easier, fairer and less expensive than forcing twelve people to be kidnapped in order to comply with their civic duty. Perhaps if the judge needed to be sequestered too, this punitive custom would have long been abandoned.
When this democracy was formed, rules and laws reflected the determination to rectify the injustices perpetrated by other systems of government. We presumed individuals to be innocent until proven guilty as the antidote to the cruelty with which monarchies had dealt with their accused. We are now living thru times when we are more concerned with the welfare of criminals and terrorists than with the plight of victims, veterans or our law abiding citizens. Common sense is the balance that needs to be restored: terrorists should not remain on anyone’s payroll, much less the U.S. army’s; killers who kill in the name of religion should not benefit from using religion to defy the rules of our country. Hasan’s beard is a symbol of our craven capitulation to honoring the religion of a terrorist over the code of our own army. Sequestering juries is a result of allowing the press and media to profit from their exploitation of their mandate to report the news. Instead of simply reporting, they inflame, exaggerate, mis-state, harass, and do everything else possible to blow up a sordid tale and keep it on the front page or tv screen for as long as profitable. And for this reason, we have determined that it’s permissible to yank jurors from their homes and isolate them in hotels at taxpayers’ expense. Does any of this make sense to you?
Have PoliticalMavens.com delivered to your inbox in a daily digest by clicking here