Thursday, October 7, 2010

Musings: Criminals

The blackness of a new moon sky was broken only by Jupiter and starlight when Koko and I slipped out to take a look last night. The Milky Way swirled above us, cutting a broad swath through the blackness, as various stars and constellations glittered all around.

By morning, only a few random stars were left in a canopy of navy blue when Koko and I went out walking. Waialeale rose up before us, pale blue and clear in the west, while glowing orange clouds huddled together in the east.

I was huddled, too, into a sweatshirt, and walking fast to keep warm.

“It’s cold,” I told my neighbor Andy when we encountered each other on the road in the murky light of pre-dawn.

But not so cold as it was in the courtroom earlier this week. As I sat in the frigid domain of Babylon, many thoughts and questions ran through my mind, not the least of which was why they keep the courtrooms so damn cold. Even the bailiffs, one wearing a jacket, had no answer for the excessive chill.

As I watched, numerous attorneys and people charged with minor crimes paraded through the courthouse, uttering their “yes, ma’ams” and “no ma’ams” in response to questions from the judge. It seemed the biggest offense most of them had committed was being too poor to make bail.

That’s why one young woman, looking like a deer caught in headlights, keeps getting dragged over from the Oahu Correctional Center, doing time even before she’s been convicted of a crime, because the prosecutor’s office hadn’t yet gotten it together to proceed with her case.

Then there was the old guy, dying of cancer, who had already spent 176 days in custody for two misdemeanors. He finally changed his plea from not guilty to no contest so he could get the hell out of jail.

“I want to go home and die outside,” he said. “I don’t want to die in there.”

Judge Kathleen Watanabe, noting that “a lot of people who are adjudged guilty don’t spend as much time [in jail] as you have,” gave him credit for time served, prompting an observer to remark, “how kind.”

The pre-trail detainees were wearing baggy Kevlar-like jumpsuits that made them stick out as criminals, even though at that point, they were still presumably innocent, as they hadn’t yet been tried. And I wondered, why can’t they wear regular clothes for their court appearances? Why are they being treated so differently than other defendants just because they don’t have bail money?

Meanwhile, as folks charged with possessing a knife, threatening somebody over a dispute about noise at a beach park, calling in a false alarm, entering a motor vehicle without authorization and other manini misdemeanors got sucked into the workings of the judiciary machine, the real criminals -- the psychopaths who blow the tops off mountains and develop depleted uranium weapons and pollute the aina and send young kids off to die in senseless wars – are never even arrested.

Every time I sit in a courtroom I’m reminded that our legal system is terribly flawed, in part because it’s skewed in favor of those who are rich and white. One of the worst aspects of it, though, is the way it makes defendants kow tow to the judges, who have the power to decide their fate.

But one person didn’t, and that was Dayne [Gonsavles] Aipoalani, alii nui of the Kingdom of Atooi. He was there with Rob Pa for charges stemming back three years to the Superferry protests. That case, which should have been dropped long ago because it’s so damn bogus, won’t even go to trial until March 2011.

Raising the Kingdom flag, Dayne declared that he has diplomatic immunity and is recognized as a sovereign by other Polynesian nations. He then presented the judge with a copy of a treaty that was made between the Kingdom and other nations, which he wanted her to acknowledge receiving before it was sent on to attorneys at the International Court of Justice and the United Nations who are apparently working with him.

I don’t know what ultimately will happen with Dayne and his many legal issues, but he’s definitely taking a different approach.

As is Joe Brescia. Something I reported in yesterday’s post -- Alan Murakami of the NHLC told me last April that Brescia’s civil suit against those who protested his house was worrisome because it “has chilled people’s ability to speak up.” -- caught the eye of a reader, who sent me this email, which I found apt:

That sounds way too much like the effect of the Islamic actions when Salman Rushdi published Satanic Verses and the cartoons appeared in the Danish newspaper. The reluctance to say what you want to say or publish what you want to publish became known as "self censorship". That sounds ever so much more sophisticated than "got the crap scared out of em".

So at some point otherwise legal prosecution gets to be right up there with terroristic threatening in it's effect on free speech.

Yup,it does. But don’t be looking for any terroristic threatening charges to be filed against big landowners filing SLAP suits. At least, not anytime soon.

Finally, I heard an extremely disturbing report on Democracy Now! the other day about a government study on syphilis treatment that resulted in Guatemalans being infected with that disease in the 1940s. The medical historian who brought this abuse to light said she was especially disturbed to encounter correspondence that made it clear our government was aware of its wrongdoing at the time, even though it only now is apologizing:

"The surgeon general says, 'Well, we couldn't do this in the United States.’" And that’s just a stunning, absolutely stunning, acknowledgment of what was going on.

Kinda makes you wonder what the government, military and private companies might have been doing – heck, still are doing -- in Hawaii. And it again raises the question of who, really, are the criminals here?


Anonymous said...

You are wrong that such a "study" could not be carried out in the U.S. In fact, the doctor who presided over the Guatemalan syphilis study is the same person who conducted the infamous syphilis study on black Americans in Tuskegee, Alabama between 1932 and 1972. For those who are unaware of that experiment in callousness and racism, it involved charting the progress of syphilism in impoverished sharecroppers (not one of them white) without ever telling them they had the disease or offering any treatment.

Anonymous said...

OJ was not rich and white, just rich :)

The judgement against the Breschia folks is, I think, to keep people from bringing frivelous (sp) lawsuits to court (see Nani Rogers; you go to court, be prepared to pay win or lose). Otherwise, you'd have every disagreement go to court and clog the system so much.

reality said...

Alan Murakami of the NHLC told me last April that Brescia’s civil suit against those who protested his house was worrisome because it “has chilled people’s ability to speak up.”

Only if your idea of free speech is trespass and/or slander of title (falsely claiming you have legal papers proving Brescia isn't the true owner). Nothing about Brescia's civil suit should stop anyone from exercising any actual right to free speech short of trying to occupy his property or publishing detrimental falsehoods about his title. Comparing Brescia's suit to an Islamic Fatwa is just stupid.

Anonymous said...

manini crimes until it happens to you!