Defense attorneys in Tampa Bay are attempting to derail the trial of accused two-time rapist Kendrick Morris. They are demanding that DNA evidence identifying Morris as the rapist in two extremely violent sexual assaults be thrown out because, they allege, police collected it improperly.
Of course, there is no other way for them to defend their client: his DNA matches the two rapes. So Morris’ lawyers are treating the courtroom like a casino craps table, not a serious truth-finding forum, a sadly reasonable presumption on their part, in fact. Warped rules of evidence, piled one upon the other, create countless opportunities for keeping important facts from being considered by judges and juries.
What remains, once enough evidence has been suppressed, is something like kabuki-theater, in which the alleged word choice of a police officer seeking a DNA sample from a dangerous suspect is deemed more important than the facts of the brutal rape itself, or the suffering of the victim, or the community’s safety.
Or the integrity of the court.
Nobody pretends they’re doing anything other than playing games with the truth, because they don’t need to pretend. A vast choir sings the praises of gaming facts through suppression of evidence. The loudest voices, of course, are those of the law school professoriate. When I attended law school, I did not stay long enough to enroll in the criminal law classes, but that was hardly necessary: my property law professor and contracts law professor and legal writing instructor waxed on endlessly about the virtues of defending criminals, by hook or by crook, as it were.
It’s a cult, and a deeply satisfying one, in which reality need rarely impinge. Until, of course, it is your daughter pulling up to drop off some library books on a school night who encounters one of the inevitable consequences of our lenient criminal justice system.
Since I started writing this blog, I’ve noticed something strange. I regularly hear from pro-offender activists who are enraged that I would deign to criticize even the sleaziest of defense tactics, as if any act on the part of the defense is some pure Platonic good hovering spotlessly over the crude, bemerded masses demanding justice.
That isn’t the strange part. I expected that.
What is strange is that many of these commenters then go on to melodramatically assert that they would like to see the particular criminal I happen to be describing locked up for life, or tortured, or killed. It’s as if they’re trying to relate (or overcompensate) by saying: Well, that guy, he should fry — no, he should be beaten up, then castrated, then killed. But other than that, it’s fair game to do anything to get your client off, and all the other predators deserve second chances.
I’m confused by this. Do they really not see that oaks grow from little acorns, and recidivism grows from the little seeds they plant in the minds of young criminals every time they help them game the system? Do they really not see that, as we let larger and larger swaths of recidivists off the hook for everything short of murder, we’re creating more murderers — particularly if we keep telling these young offenders that they’re the real victims, and the people they victimize are not?
The really offensive thing about Kendrick Morris’ defense is that there are absolutely no consequences for filing some 76 pages of false accusations against the officers who investigated the Bloomingdale library rape. Morris’ lawyers know he’s guilty, so they’re screaming police abuse. Throw everything at the wall; malign the reputations of a couple of decent public servants along the way, just to see what sticks.
The victims I hear from are far more sober and rational about the justice system — in contrast to the way they are depicted in the news, and in defiance of the way they are treated. Like late-stage cancer patients, they are aware that their hopes will probably not survive the trial process. Even when offenders are made to pay for their crimes, the victims are made to pay, too. And after any trial is over, an army of activists stand at the ready to take up the inmate’s cause, no matter what horrors he has perpetrated.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We have handed our criminal justice system over to partisans for criminals, and now we must take it back.