Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Legacy Of Justice: Forget It, Roman, It's Chinatown....

Evelyn Mulwray: What were you doing there?

Jake Gittes: Working for the District Attorney.

Evelyn Mulwray: Doing what?

Jake Gittes: As little as possible.

Evelyn Mulwray: The District Attorney gives his men advice like that?

Jake Gittes: They do in Chinatown.
-Robert Towne ("Chinatown," directed by Roman Polanski, 1974).

There are, I believe, two kinds of people when it comes to crime and punishment. There are those who understand that we are a nation of laws, and that our system does not serve vengeance but justice. And those who are like something out of the Old Testament, eye for an eye righteous fumers whose philosophies on justice sound like something out of the most regressive, brutal and cruel sharia law. I like to divide these groups into educated and ignorant.

These groups stand in stark contrast on the matter of Roman Polanski, and the two classifications - educated and ignorant - become more obvious when you look at Polanski's case. The ignorant believe that Polanski should be serving life in prison or have been castrated or something equally harsh, and they are operating under the knowledge-free belief that the Polish filmmaker never faced justice in the matter of his rape of a 13- year old girl. The educated know better; they know that Polanski pleaded guilty (which is why he never went before a jury - when you plead guilty you skip the whole trial process, which exists to determine innocence or guilt) and that he served time in Chino under psychiatric supervision as part of his plea bargain.

What the ignorant don't know - and they would know all of this if they had watched the excellent, fascinating (and directed by a woman) documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired (DVD release 1. 27.09) - is that the judge in the case, a notorious showboater, decided to renege on the deal and wanted to send Polanski to jail for up to 50 years, a sentence even the prosecutor and Polanski's victim felt was too harsh. It was this aspect of the case - an out of control judge seeking media attention by meteing out an obviously unfair sentence - that drove Polanski to flee America, never again to return.

In Wanted and Desired prosecutor Roger Gunson goes on the record saying that the judge acted inappropriately, and the film makes the case that further attempts to get the Polanski case cleared up ran afoul of more publicity hounding - another judge said that Polanski could come back to America for a hearing only if it was televised.

And now this streak of cruel attention-seeking continues, says the victim in the case. Samantha Geimer has called for the charges against Polanski to be dropped. From a wire services story:

"I was the 13-year-old girl Roman Polanski took advantage of on March 10, 1977, wrote Samantha Geimer, now a 45-year old mother of three. "I have urged that this matter come to a formal legal end. I have urged that the district attorney and the court dismiss these charges." True as they may be, the continued publication of those details causes harm to me, my beloved husband, my three children and my mother. I have become a victim of the actions of the district attorney," she wrote in a brief filed with the court.

Geimer continued: "My position is absolutely clear. Let us deal with the harm and continued harm that the pendency of this matter visits upon me and my family, and waive the legal niceties away, and cause it to be dismissed." ( Note: Geimer has volunteered to come and speak at the upcoming January 21st hearing).

At this point is there any question that the DA in this matter is simply trying to score political points? When even the victim is asking that this endless case be closed so that she can move on with her life?

The truth is that the case of Roman Polanski is a complicated one. Yes, he was wrong for what he did. Yes, he deserved punishment. But he went through all the legal steps required of him, did everything ordered by the court, up until the point when the court decided to scrap the agreement.

There's something Kafkaesque about Polanski's story, and this aspect is one that the American media ignores time and again. Whether or not you agree with the plea bargain deal, it was reached fairly and legally. Polanski committed a crime and he worked out a deal to pay his dues. He was then wronged when the deal was ignored. The case is filled with shades of gray that infuriate Americans, especially when it comes to sex crimes. Polanski can be wrong and yet, at the same time, wronged. Our system is set up to provide as much fairness as possible and despite the beliefs of the ignorant Old Testamenters, your rights don't suddenly evaporate when you plead guilty. You're not supposed to be subject to the extralegal whims of a judge. There's supposed to be accountability.

Hopefully we're closer to this whole matter being solved. Will Polanski ever come back to America should the charges be dropped? Hard to say. There are enough knuckle-heads out there that I guarantee any event at which Polanski appears will be picketed. I'm not sure it's worth it for him anymore, except to prove a point. Maybe it's a point that needs to be proven.

-Devin Faraci ("The Curious Case of Roman Polanski," The Devin's Advocate, 1.13.09. Image: -Roman Polanski, "The Tenant," directed by Roman Polanski, 1976 ).

2 comments:

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Mark Earhart said...

I've neglected to comment on this post for a while because I wanted to do so when I had the time and clarity of thought to do it justice.

Legally, once you've screwed up prosecuting a case you can't back peddle. The legal system is totally out of line here, true that.

Secondly, I would like to address what I personally would do if I were sitting on a jury of a man charged with raping a 13 year old girl.

Sadly, few are aware of what the process of jury nullification is, much less their constitutional right and responsibility to exercise it. If an attorney begins to instruct a jury of this right they face being held in contempt of court.

If I were on a jury involving an adult and any form of sex with a thirteen year old, I would hang the jury for one very simple reason, the law is unjust. Quite the opposite of what the author suggests about ignorance and the barbaric nature of "Old Testament" ideology, I submit that the absence of mandatory capital punishment for such a crime is both barbaric and ignorant. Such should be required with or without admission of guilt. I do not believe in plea bargains, period, for the reduction of penalty. I believe if you play you should pay, regardless of who you are.

Check the statistics of repeat offenses for sex offenders. How many are "cured"?

A realistic statistical evaluation of the harm done to victims of sex crimes, especially children, is impossible since a huge number of cases are never reported. The fact that the victim is married with children is quite remarkable.

If we're going to allow people who commit acts of rape against children to walk the streets ever again after committing such an act then we need to level the playing field and teach every child how to fire high caliber firearms and arm them with instructions to kill if sexually assaulted in any way.

As for considering the precepts of God to be "ignorance" I pity the people who consider themselves to be wiser and more civilized than their creator. This is the ultimate in both ignorance and grandiosity. Again, before hurling the word "ignorant" I would suggest that the author learn the difference between "sharia law", the "Old Testament", the Qu'ran, Islam and Christianity. Those who follow Sharia law follow an interpretation of the Koran, which was written thousands of years after the earliest parts of the Old Testament were scribed. The Old Testament is used by Christians as a foundation of their beliefs along with the New Testament. The “Old Testament” is used in varying degrees in Judaism as a basis of their religion to this day as well. He refers to three separate religions, with an abundance of sects, as if there were no difference. Apparently he knows very little about that which he chooses to condemn.

At this point, whether the victim wants to pursue action against Mr. Polanski is totally irrelevant. What should have been done long ago, before he ever had the chance to flee the country, would have been for the father or some close relative of this young girl to send the bastard straight to hell where he belongs. It is never too late for that though, so there is still hope.

If someone attempts premeditated murder but does not succeed, whether or not the intended victim wishes to press charges is totally irrelevant. The same principal applies here, yet has been totally mishandled by our judicial system.

Our legal system has turned to rubbish with a ridiculous lack of consistency in sentencing.

We can not allow such predators to walk the streets and I refuse to pay for their room and board for life!!! I say death to every last one of them!!!