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1.29.2004

"This Is Wonderful" 

So sayeth Anne Leclair, president and vice chief executive of the San Mateo, CA County Convention and Visitors Bureau to a reporter after learning that the murder trial of Scott Peterson had been moved to San Mateo County. In case you're wondering about the crime that inspired these "wonderful" trial events, the story includes a victim that was an almost-born child and its decapitated mother.

I'll get back to that in a moment.

First, I'd like to apologize for my absence. I have been in Europe and away from the computer from a number of weeks now. In fact, I am writing this post at night - contrary to my usual morning timetable - because I cannot find the time during the day (I am too busy playing catch up with work). But I have been feeling a bit neglectful despite the excuse, and so here am I yet again.

Don't get me wrong, though...what I have to say is important, and I am proud to be standing behind Kirstin Lobato. But she stands in the shadows cast by the sickly gleam of high profile cases, and so her plight is hard to see.

Which leads me back to Ms. Leclair, and the Peterson trial. The reason she is so happy is that the incursion of a mass of reporters and the morbidly curious upon San Mateo will bring in revenue. I'm sure Mrs. Peterson would be very pleased that her violent decapitation and murdered child brought revenue to the state of California. It is a mighty circus, and if I were to give a State of the Union address, I'd certainly give Ms. Leclair a nod, for she shows the state of the country's mind on justice.

Did you know that Santa Barbara County paid $75,000 for staff and security for Michael Jackson's arraignment on the 23rd? They offset the cost by charging the media a daily rate of $250 for a parking spot close to the court house. When I was in Holland, everyone who found out I was American asked about Michael Jackson, even though the running bet in America is that his career was done before all of this happened, no matter how fond of him the average fan might be.

Peterson and Jackson are exactly the high profile cases I mean in the introduction to this blog. $250 for a parking spot for an arraignment? Wonderful that the trial for a woman's murder has led to a cash flow in California? I'm almost glad Kirstin's case never got media attention.

But I am not glad, because her case has not gotten the attention it deserved. Most especially, her proofs of innocence went unheard in the courtroom, and would go unheard throughout the world were it not for the efforts of those who support her. And there is plenty of evidence of her innocence, and next to nothing to proclaim her guilt. If any case should concern the public about the state of our justice system, it should be Kirstin's. Not Michael Jackson's. Not Steve Peterson's. Not Kobe Bryant's, either.

But public figures being what they are, they get afforded the attention. I admit it is often negative attention, but that is because negative strikes home. These public cases do not represent our justice system, and in fact are quite the opposite. They are tainted by opinion from the start, either by fame or respect or media spin.

Yet here, with Kirstin Lobato, we have a case wherein the operation of our justice system placed a woman with predominant proofs of innocence and nearly no evidence of guilt behind bars for 40 years. She was 18 when she was arrested. Think about those years for a moment. Think about what that means for her life, for a life. Then tell me that any one of those cases I mentioned above makes for more important news concerning the legal reality of America. That reality contains issues that you and I and every citizen should know about - and perhaps even fear.

I believe that the people should be faced with the news that the legal system they have to trust in can commit such terrible errors. Being blind to the hidden imperfections of such a system prevents us from making real changes to improve that system. Instead our attention is caught by the merry media dance of M.J. and Peterson and Kobe.

I often think of the 3 year, self-defense plea bargain offered to Kirstin. Had she known more about the truth and less about the spoon fed "justice prevails" crap that we hear all the time, she may have been less prone to put her faith in the system. Of course, I still think she would have, for idealism's sake. The point is, there's little way for anyone to know - who has not experienced it - that those ideals are not so shining when put to the test. Once you do experience it, it is too late, and the trap is snapping shut.

How well can you know the things that aren't put before you? Kirstin couldn't have known, just as the world would not know of her situation were it not for the efforts of those people working on her behalf, and on the behalf of shared ideals about what the justice system of America should stand for. Despite even those efforts, not enough is known about her case. Not nearly enough of its importance is within our sight.

Michael Jackson is, though.


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