Saturday, January 07, 2006

Criminal Injustice

Just watched the new show, Injustice. This stirred up many memories and emotions. It was followed by a 20/20 piece on about a mother who used her daughter and the prosecutors to put her ex’s two sons in prison for a crime they never committed. This was a vindictive act during their breakup. There is no doubt that the system puts many in prison who are innocent. I have seen this personally many times and am a victim of this as well.
Understand that everyone wants to be recognized as doing their job well. Don’t you? Most of us strive to excel, especially when our future is predicated by that performance. You want a promotion? You want a raise? Do you want to be reelected? These are driving motivators and add to it the biggest motivator of all. What do your peers think of you? What about your friends? Don’t we all love the “Good Job. You showed them. Yeah buddy, let’s buy you a drink”. Clap you on the back and everyone likes you and is impressed. Top of the gang, you can walk with your head up high. Look at me, I’m good. So what lengths do you go to for this?
As in every aspect of the human equation there is a complex mix of things that influence our behaviors. So what is the prevailing attitude in our criminal justice system? It’s the good guys against the bad guys. We are righteous and they are the scum of the earth. Even if he didn’t do it he’s done lots of other things. I know he is bad so he deserves to be locked away. This attitude grows with time and is increased by the constant contact with the depredations and horrors of the criminal world.
I have seen good people become quickly jaded. In the Texas prison system I watched guards that were new to their job and fresh out of school come to work. Many of them wanted to help inmates become better people. They would be nice in a guarded way because after all we are convicts and they are taught to be on guard, which they should be. But it never took long for them to change, to be infected with the attitudes of their peers, the old school hardened guards, and the evil that always is there in the prisons. I would watch them change. Their language would evolve to match that of the inmates and the “your trash, fuck you” attitude would take over. Because of this the victims of the courts become the victims of the prison.
I would watch young kids, who made mistakes and could have been made better people, be horribly scarred, raped, killed, or become hardened hateful convicts. And the guards would hasten that and sometimes assist in this destruction of life. On top of that some of them were convicted of crimes they did not commit. Manipulated by unscrupulous prosecutors, who were more interested in how many notches they could carve into their guns than justice, into confessing to crimes they did not commit. Told that if they “copped a plea” they would get a lenient punishment and if they didn’t the book would be thrown at them.
So who are most often the victims of this? It is the younger inexperienced ones. It is those who are a little “slow”. The ones who have mental deficiencies, who are scared and easily intimidated. Those who are the practiced criminals, who have been in the system, know how things work and know how to work things to their advantage. The ones who have the greatest chance of being reformed and becoming contributing members of society are the ones who are screwed the most. They are sent to prison and are spiritually killed or learn to be much worse than they were.
How do I know this? What qualifies me to write of this? I have lived through it, I have experienced this personally. At 18 I was a troubled kid, wild and rebellious, a creation of my father and a very disrupted childhood. (Wait till I my book gets published. It’s quite a story) In a small west Texas town I had ground up some aspirin and Alka Seltzer and was selling it as cocaine to make a few bucks that I would spend on booze and a little pot. Pulled over while driving around drunk with some friends I gave the little foil packet I was going to try and get ten bucks for to one of those friends so he could hide it down his pants. He got scared and gave it to the cops telling them it was mine. Taken to jail a detective got out his little test kit and after swirling it around told me it was cocaine. After a few weeks in jail I was taken to court with no legal representation but the one provided by the court. I was told that if I plead guilty I would be given probation, which is what happened. Later my grandmother told me she had slipped a couple hundred bucks to the prosecutor to get me off. Easy money for him.
Probation is a trap because if you sneeze you will be sent to prison and there is no trial because you have already been tried and found guilty. I will be the first to admit I was a bad kid and definitely a trouble maker. About a year later the car I was in was pulled over. I had a joint in my pocket so it’s off to prison I go with a ten year sentence at 19. What Texas prison was like is another story that I will tell later. In prison I “found the Lord” and became a Christian. This gave me purpose and was a powerful motivator to change my life. I now wanted to do good and help others avoid the paths that led to my imprisonment. I was released on parole after three years and enrolled in a bible college where I was ordained upon graduation.
It was in this Bible College I met the love of my life. We got married and set out to change the world but things fell apart after I fell from a tee, breaking my back, neck, and sustaining a traumatic brain injury. Because of the drastic personality change caused by the brain injury we were divorced.
This tore both of our hearts apart and the emotional scars plagued us for twenty years. Then, through a miraculous chain of events stemming from my getting another brain injury, we were brought back together. We just remarried June 20, 2004. This is an amazing love story which I am also writing about.
Seventeen years after the divorce I had become a moderately successful business man having built two companies from scratch. After getting a large contract I took my company out to a bar to celebrate. (obviously I had fallen away from the Christian thing) After eight hours of drinking I headed home, lucky I didn’t hit somebody or drive into a ditch. There was a fireworks stand a block from my house so, still celebrating my success, I kicked the door in and piled up the fireworks in the parking lot. I don’t know if I couldn’t find my lighter to set them off or what but I passed out on them and a cop getting off his shift drove by and saw me. Bam, I’m in jail with a breaking and entering charge.
This time I could afford a lawyer but it didn’t matter. You see the criminal justice system is a close knit community, especially in a small town. These guys went to school together, they marry, they have kids, they go to their social groups, they invite each other over to dinner, they are friends or associates with an occasional rare exception. I was an ex con. I had a record, so I was the bad guy who belonged in prison. Despite catching the arresting officer lying on tape I was convicted. My lawyer would just mumble and had to be asked to speak up so the jury could hear several times.
Now Michigan law states that if someone is so intoxicated that he can’t think out his actions reasonably enough to have what they call criminal intent he is not liable for those actions. My lawyer seemed to just forget that despite it being rather obvious it applied to me. So I am given the maximum sentence allowable and go to prison with a two to ten year sentence.
This cost me everything. My second wife took over my companies for me and squandered everything on her new boyfriends. There was nothing left when I got out but all the records she had pulled from the filing cabinets and scattered on the office floor. That and the bills she didn’t pay. I rebuilt the companies from scratch again.
Nine years later I fell twelve feet from the pallet racking in my warehouse, knocking myself out, breaking two ribs, and sustaining a second traumatic brain injury with its resulting drastic personality change. I had renewed my relationship with the same wife who had screwed me over before but it was rocky. I caught her giving oral sex in the parking lot of the mall where she worked.
This led to a severe depression which was augmented by the Oxycontin pain medication I was taking for the broken ribs. Of course this is a highly addictive pain killer, just what I needed at the time. I moved out of the house and into my warehouse and began the year long bitter divorce. I was falling apart and began doing what many do in times like these. When alcohol didn’t make the pain disappear I added drugs to it and that escalated into a self destructive madness. Catching an employee stealing I file charges so he had his wife and dad go to the police with a stolen computer they said they purchase from me.
Now I am charged with another felony, the third one I have had. Of course the heinous nature of my previous crimes (sarcasm intended) made me a habitual criminal in the eyes of the court. By this time the drugs, alcohol, and depression had taken their toll. I was a basket case and was destroying everything I had built and was proud of. There is no question that I was no longer mentally competent. Because of the drugs I was hallucinating and close to being indigent. At one time I was admitted to the psych ward when I was found in a gas station parking lot crying and unable to tell my name.
At this time my court appointed attorney said I had no chance of winning and he told me that if I would plead no contest there was a good chance I might be found not guilty. He did say he couldn’t guarantee it, which covered his ass should there be future questions. I just wanted this to be over so I could run and hide from the hell my world had become and, trusting him, I followed his advise.
I was found guilty and sentenced to what is called work release, where you go to work during the day and return to your cell every night. Shortly after that sentence my divorce was finalized. I signed my divorce papers, and packing everything I valued and could fit in my car I left town to go back home in Texas. In my deranged mind I was going to hide out, take another identity, and rebuild my life thus escaping this misery I had created. On the way to Texas I fell asleep and drove off the road. This caused a horrific wreck where I was flung out the back window as the car rolled end over end at eighty miles per hour. I was first pronounced dead but was resuscitated in the emergency room. This put me in a coma and gave me another traumatic brain injury which caused severe memory loss. (The event which brought my first wife and I back together)
While in rehab at the Brain Injury Institute in St. Louis it was found that there was a warrant for my arrest in Toledo for violating the terms of my sentence. They contacted the same court appointed attorney who represented me for this last felony. He assured them that he would take care of the warrant so I could continue my rehabilitation. That never happened and I was extradited back to Toledo.
To sum this all up the term “Criminal Justice” is an oxymoron. I think Criminal Injustice would be a more accurate description. I have permanent disabilities from my injuries but am doing well with my lovely wife. I completed the terms of my probation and was released from it last month. Now I write when this brain works and do what I can to help others.
I want to share this story and my life with as many as possible. you can help. If you click on the envelope at the bottom you can send this to others you know. I greatly appreciate your help and thank you in advance. Bob

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