On the heels of the f*cked up ruling on Bill Cosby, I’ve read several analyses, op-eds, and essays in which the rule of law is being extolled for having worked as intended. Um, WTF?? Excuse me, but this whole thing make me wanna holler, throw up both my hands, swear a lot, and use ALL CAPS. We live in a world where a criminal who preyed on some 60 women can walk because a prosecutor promised his testimony would only be used in a civil case, but years later, in a federal hearing, that testimony was used by jurors to arrive at the TRUTH.
I get it that the system of justice depends on a defendant’s ability to trust a prosecutor’s deal. However, if what we’re interested in is the TRUTH, then something is wrong with the system and the system itself needs to be overhauled. Since a defendant has the right to remain silent in order to not incriminate himself, then maybe Bill Cosby should have shut the hell up instead of admitting to his “playboy” days of drugging women with quaaludes, which, among other things, set the precedent (in the jury’s eye) for his behavior of drugging women in order to rape them.
(On a side note, I can’t help but observe that no one is talking about Bill Cosby’s need to rape women who seem like they’re dead. According to top model Beverly Johnson’s account in Vanity Fair, as the effect of the drug hit her, she started shouting at him that he was a motherfucker and kept at it, which took all the fun out of it for him. In a fit of rage, he grabbed her and dragged her down the stairs, nearly breaking her legs in the process. He opened the door of his house, hailed a cab, and threw her inside it. She managed to give the taxi driver her address before passing out. She doesn’t remember how she got home. He’s a necrophiliac, folks. He needed to be in a mental asylum, preferably one run by Nurse Ratched’s twin. Maybe his supportive real-life wife, Camille Cosby, or his enabling TV wife Phylicia Rashad will let him drug them so he can have fun raping them.)
But if it’s truth we’re after, we’re in trouble, because, weirdly, in America, we are now living in post-truth times. Rapists like Bill Cosby and Tr***p, who keep saying they’re innocent, must believe, like Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels before them, that “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” If you ask Republicans about the January 6 assault on the Capitol, that was nothing but “a normal tourist visit.” When the most basic truths become subjective, we’re in deep trouble. Something is wrong here on so many fronts, the least of which is our justice system.
I recently tuned into a panel discussion on racism and the criminal justice system hosted by my friend Sylvester Monroe, Senior Fellow at USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy. To get the conversation going about the killings of unarmed Black men by the police, Sylvester started by asking this question (I’m paraphrasing): In light of past and recent events in the news, is the system working as it should? To my utter surprise, everyone on the panel answered in the affirmative! In other words, if the laws that govern police conduct have their roots in laws that institutionalized systemic racism, then the system is working as intended, and perfectly at that.
Our justice system also says that a person can’t be tried twice for the same crime even if later evidence proves the person’s guilt. We uphold and applaud this law as if God herself had come down from the sky, shiny robes and all, and declared it so. And then you have cops with near-zero accountability for crimes they commit, even in the face of irrefutable evidence, as in videos — Hello, Rodney King! — simply by using the dusty defense: I feared for my life. There are unfortunately plenty more examples of our dysfunctional and unequal criminal justice system to list here. When laws don’t make sense — especially when they’re political or rigged by big money — we need to fix them, not spout legal inanities about how the system worked as it should. The question is, FOR WHOM?
*Image courtesy of Proof.org