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Justice is Blind, Not Very Smart

Justice is Blind, Not Very Smart

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2009

I'm a big supporter of civil rights and personal liberties. In this country, we're all guaranteed certain inalienable rights, and are allowed certain dignities, even when facing criminal charges.

For example, if you're accused of a crime, you have a right to not have your name dragged through the mud during the investigation. Of course, if you're found guilty, all bets are off. Let the name dragging begin. But until then, people deserve the whole "innocent until proven guilty" benefit of the doubt.

Look what happened to Richard Jewell, the security guard who saved several people from being blown up during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Rather than being hailed as a hero, he was accused by the FBI of planting the bomb, and all but found guilty by the news media. Despite some nasty accusations and rumors in the news, he was exonerated. So he sued several media outlets for a kajillion dollars, and won or settled every one of them.

Still, there are times when the criminals in question don't deserve sympathy or special treatment. I found two cases where I thought the criminals were getting special treatment, while the victims were being unnecessarily prosecuted or persecuted. And surprisingly, neither of them are in the United States.

In Toronto, Canada, David Chen, owner of the Lucky Moose store, was relieved to learn that some of the most serious charges against him were dropped related to a shoplifting incident this past spring.

Only Chen wasn't the shoplifter.

No, that was Anthony Bennett, an apparently habitual shoplifter Chen caught trying to steal from his store for a second time in the same day.

Chen and two other employees caught Bennett and held him until police arrived. The police freed Bennett, and then arrested the three Lucky Moose workers. Bennett later pled guilty and was sentenced to 30 days in jail for his crime.

Meanwhile, Chen was charged with kidnapping, possession of a dangerous weapon (a box cutter he wore on his belt), assault, and forcible confinement. The first two charges were dropped, which means Chen goes on trial next June before a judge for the last two charges that stemmed from stopping a shoplifter from ruining his livelihood.

Many Canadian activists are wondering why Chen is facing the more serious charges, even though Bennett has a 33-year police record, and only spent a month in jail. Chen was trying to protect his store from further theft, and faces several years in prison for it.

One of Chen's customers, Marianne Chong, told the Toronto Sun, that the Canadian courts are being rather unreasonable. She pointed out that Chen has to work 16 hour days just to cover his court and legal costs, while Bennett was able to get a free legal aid lawyer.

This week, another tale of misplaced priorities comes from Cornwall, England, shop owners Dennis and Christine Lusby had all the windows in their village store smashed out by one Ben Hill. The 20-year-old troublemaker, who had been in trouble with the law before, admitted to breaking the windows, and spent 74 days in jail for it. In fact, he did over £3,000 ($5,000) in damage to the windows, as well as a farmhouse window, a car, and another house.

The Lusbys, tired of answering the same old "what happened to your windows?" question from customers, wrote "damage done by Ben Hill" on all the plywood.

Not a problem, right? Hill committed the crime, pled guilty to it, and spent over two months in jail for it. They're just reporting the facts of the case.

But the police told the Lusbys to remove Hill's name from the boards, because the mere stating of the truth was taking away his civil liberties.

In other words, the police didn't want the Lusbys to tell everyone that BEN HILL BROKE THEIR WINDOWS. Apparently, telling people that BEN HILL BROKE THEIR WINDOWS was somehow going to create problems for the poor lad, who already had a well-earned reputation for terrorizing the village of St. Breward.

Ironically, I saw the story about how BEN HILL BROKE THEIR WINDOWS in the (London) Daily Mail. It's ironic, because once the story hit the British newspapers, any civil liberties the destructive little punk might have had immediately flew out the window.

He probably got blamed for breaking that one too.

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