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8.29.2003

To Plea Or Not To Plea

That was the question. Whether it was nobler in her mind to suffer the slings and arrows of being labelled an admitted criminal, or to risk the destruction of her rightful freedom by taking up arms against an accusatory sea of troubles.

Kirstin Lobato had a chance to make a plea bargain before facing a trial and jury. The District Attorney's office offered 3 years, in a sort of bow to the idea that she killed Duran Bailey as a matter of self-defense against a rapist. Except that Kirstin did not kill Duran Bailey, even though she had defended herself from an unknown rapist.

It must have been a heavy decision, to weigh three years against the possible 40 or more that would be handed to her in the case of being found guilty in a First Degree Murder trial. In the world of common sense, this would now be the time for any guilty man or woman to swallow their pride and count themselves very, very lucky indeed. Few would argue that there isn't a massive difference between three years in prison and forty.

It wasn't even the sort of thing that would destroy her reputation so much, given the circumstances. "I killed a rapist in self-defense and spent 3 years in prison for it" are the words of a martyr, and far removed from something more commonly stupid and inane, like: "I killed that fool because he looked at me wrong."

The only problem with the plea bargain was that it wasn't true. She killed no one. And so she turned the deal down.

I have reason to believe that Kirstin Lobato is an idealistic individual, though perhaps less so now that those ideals have been suffocated by a cloud of injustice. At the time, she put her faith in the justice system that we all want to believe in, and held tight to the idea that the guilty are punished but the innocent are set free. There is little more simple, little more direct than that idea. It is the core purpose of having a system of justice, a basic foundation of our liberty. Kirstin Lobato knew that, but what she didn't know was that the shining ideal that we imagine the justice system to be is far removed from what is really there: a blind and cumbersome machine that is constantly subjected to both the court of a wildly fluctuating public opinion and cut by the razor wire constraints of technical linguistics and unyeilding demands.

It is tempting to think that, had she the opportunity to do it again knowing what she knows now, Kirstin would have taken the plea deal and saved herself from a life that is really no life at all. But the same type of character that would put such faith in the ideals of justice must also have an appreciation for honesty, integrity, and sincerity. Otherwise those ideals would be in conflict. There is no realistic way to hold onto a pure concept of justice without also believing in the very virtues upon which that that concept has been built. That sort of contradiction would make your values easy to compromise (and that plea bargain was an excellent compromise).

No...if Kirstin knew then what she knows now, I don't think she would have taken the plea bargain. I admit that I am not in a position to know for sure, but I am positive that she would use her knowledge to fight for her innocence harder and better and with the wisdom of experience...to show the world that her ideals of truth have the power she knows they have.

She did the right thing, and burned for it. It is time to correct that.


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