I don’t have a law degree.
Worse than that, I don’t have a good understanding of the law. I’m also confused by what we call our system of justice.
I’ll give you three very short stories, changing names.
Bill was a highly successful businessman. By all appearances, he had everything. Beautiful family, several cars, and even three homes that his family enjoyed in various seasons. His two young sons were exceptionally popular. Parents of two of the boys’ acquaintances, however, were jealous of all this wealth, and connived to get a piece of it. They persuaded their boys to claim that Bill had molested them once in a back-yard camp-out. Bill would get arrested. Then, they could and would file a damage suit for thousands of dollars. It worked, just as they had planned.
Diana was a highly successful corporate executive. But, life wasn’t all that pleasant at home. Her husband struggled with mental illness. While dealing with extreme paranoia, he was constantly confiding to others that his wife was plotting against him, that she wanted to get rid of him. He wrote a document to that effect, saying that, “If I’m gone, you’ll know who to blame.” Then he took his own life. Guess who got blamed, arrested and convicted? You got it!
Matt’s consulting business was on a roll, and it kept him traveling most of the time. For one of his trips he unwisely chose an “on-and-off” woman friend who struggled with substance abuse. She assured him that she was no longer taking prescription meds. But, that was not the case, and while staying in a luxurious Michigan resort, she overdosed, stumbled and fell while Matt was gone with a client. Upon his return, Matt found the women bruised and bloodied, an argument mushroomed over the recurring substance problem, and the noise upset the neighbors. Hotel occupants called the cops, the woman claimed that those injuries were caused by Matt, and he wound up in the pokey. He’s still there!
Now here’s what I don’t get. All three of these people had the means to hire what they thought was the best legal counsel. Yet, in all three cases, these innocent people lost. Now, I can understand how that sometimes happens with jury trials. Prosecutors don’t win by accident. They’re good, and they strive for convictions. But here’s the confusing part. If our system is the best in the world, if, indeed, everyone is innocent until proven guilty, how come these three people are still in prison? Worse than that, all avenues of appeal have been exhausted. All this money spent, all these powerful attorneys, still no resolution, and nowhere else to turn! No more options. That’s justice?
I give these examples to my friends with law degrees. They pat my hand, and say, “Doug, you just don’t understand.”
There could not be a more accurate statement.