Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Friday, January 11, 2008

Lock Up Your Rhododendrons

At long last, Kenny Richey arrives home after serving 21 years for a crime he didn't commit.

In view of the fact that the person most likely to have been inadvertently (or negligently, depending on your point of view) responsible for Cythia Collins's death was her own mother Hope Collins, the intemperate outburst by Cynthia's aunt Valerie Binkley at Richey's final hearing ("I want you to know you've fooled nobody no more. Nobody. You will burn in hell.") is indicative not just of grief but of an inability to come to terms with an inconvenient truth. Or as Richey himself put it, less tactfully but understandably in the circumstances, when asked if he felt sorry for the Collins family: "Those fucking idiots? I was their scapegoat."

In the UK the system doesn't permit victims' families to make courtroom statements, so in the event that dignified grief gives way to vengeful shrieking it may get into the tabloids but it doesn't pollute the court proceedings, nor (quite rightly) does it have the slighttest influence on sentencing. So despite the best efforts of Blair to dismantle the parts he couldn't simply ignore our legal system is still better than the American one in some respects.

And our cops appears to be less dumb too. Ohio Sheriff James Beutler (yes I know he's actually a state official not a cop) went for the Buford T Justice (vide Smokey and the Bandit) award for Most Stupid Pronouncement of 2008 By A Law Enforcement Officer. He first described Richey as "a risk to the people of Edinburgh" and then said "He's not a risk to re-offend back in Scotland – he will definitely re-offend." Um, OK. The charges to which Richey pleaded "no contest", in other words the ones the state didn't simply throw out as bogus, were child endangerment and involuntary manslaughter, by way of failing to turn up as promised and babysit Cynthia. Does Sheriff Beutler believe that the sober and godly matrons of Edinburgh will be queuing up to ask him to babysit their children so he can get pissed instead and thus "re-offend"?

Oops - I almost forgot that Richey was also convicted of stealing a plant from a garden centre. Perhaps he'll reoffend on that count, but you know what? I don't feel threatened. (Someone stole a potted shrub from our garden once: we survived, in pretty good shape, and unlike Valerie Binkley I don't believe that the thief will burn in hell for the crime. Well, unless s/he didn't look after it properly and keep it watered.)

Now I need to rent Smokey and the Bandit again......


At 11 January, 2008 08:36, Anonymous Phil said...

the system doesn't permit victims' families to make courtroom statements

Oh yes it does (thanks to that nice Charles Clarke). There's a similar scheme in England. I understand they've both rapidly fallen into relative disuse - the police don't like taking them, the courts don't much like receiving them and the victims don't like them not having any effect on the trial.

But what you reported is a victim statement on acquittal, which is a weird and stupid idea.

At 13 January, 2008 11:10, Blogger Chip said...

Having been on the other side of such a rant, I can say it does affect sentencing. It even affects what the defense can say (as the defense speaks after such rants).

In my particular case, those ranting called the defendant a liar, who speaks with golden words but whose heart is black and can not be trusted. So, when the defense had the opportunity to speak, it couldn't have the defendant speak as it would just be "golden words" but not the truth. The result was a sentence whose punishment was more than 5 times severe that of another guilty verdict of at least twice the "damages". In the other case there was no one to rant, so the judge was allowed to hear the "sorrow" of the defendant and judge accordingly.

People's emotions should NOT be given as evidence. When we allow it, it only serves to give weight to those who speak well from the heart over the facts of a case - which is really what a judgment should be about.

At 15 January, 2008 01:14, Blogger Rob said...

Phil - you're right, of course, though as you say the idea rapidly fell out of favour which is why I'd forgotten it. Also, in Britain the press never seemed to make a big thing of them; not sure why.

Chip - I couldn't agree more.

At 15 January, 2008 10:15, Anonymous Eddie Louise said...

An interesting note on this case. Pleading 'No Contest' means you accept that the State has a case, but it is not really strong enough to imprison you, and the State accepts that you are likely to win in a full trial situation, but that would be lengthy and expensive... so if you'll just plead 'No Contest', we'll say time served is enough and we all walk away happy. 'No Contest' pleas are entered usually to 'save face'. They also wipe the record clean after the probationary period. So in other words... after 5 years, Kenny Richey will have no criminal record in the USA. I am sure he accepted the plea to get it all over with, because the State was willing to push it to another trial just to save face, and though all the pundits say Richey would have one, it would have been almost another 5 years. So to Richey it is five years in prison fighting, or five years out and then it all goes away... no wonder he chose the No Contest option!!!


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