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Mom of five lovely daughters, wife of one dashing man. Born in Utah, grew up in Oregon, live in Georgia.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Criminal Injustice System

All of us on David's side of the family have had a nightmare of a couple weeks. It's shaken my faith in our nation's (or at least our state's) criminal justice system.

To make a long story short, my nephew Jonathan (the one that lived with us for a few months a while ago) was charged and convicted of abusing his baby and on Wednesday was sentenced to 20 years in prison and then 20 years of probation. It is a tragic situation. A couple years ago Alex (Jonathan's baby) stopped breathing and ended up slipping into a coma. He suffered brain damage and has serious medical problems. He is blind, has seizures, has breathing problems, and cannot eat normally. His life expectancy is low.

But we do not believe that Jonathan abused his baby. We don't believe him capable of abuse. Jonathan is far from perfect, but impatience and aggression are not his weaknesses. But for some reason Jonathan was the only suspect from the beginning. (Even though his wife and in-laws also had regular care of the baby.) I hate to make accusations, but Jonathan's mother-in-law worked for the county sheriff's department and I wonder how much her position protected her family from investigation. DFCS prohibited Jonathan from having any contact with his baby, pushed Katy (his wife) to divorce him if she wanted to retain custody of their child, and ultimately granted custody to Katy and her parents. At first Katy supported Jonathan, but somewhere along the line she changed her mind and is now one of Jonathan's most ardent accusers.

And the judge and jury somehow found "overwhelming" evidence to convict Jonathan of nearly killing his son. But for me, there are some huge questions that I still haven't answered. And without those answers, I cannot fathom how they came to the conclusion that Jonathan was guilty.

1. There is some doubt as to whether or not Alex was actually abused. He had medical problems early on that may have been the cause of his coma and brain damage. How can they absolutely determine his problems were caused by abuse?

2. If Alex was abused, how are they so sure that Jonathan was the abuser? Both he, Katy, and his in-laws took turns caring for the baby. Why were they ruled out in the investigation?

It is so frustrating because the entire process is subject to human bias and error. The doctors may have misdiagnosed Alex's condition, the investigators may have missed critical evidence because of their partiality to Katy's mom, Jonathan may have been represented better with a more skilled attorney, the jurors may have not been given all of the relevant information to make a truly informed verdict, and the judge may have been mistaken in her analysis and judgment. The system is so far from perfect that it makes me ill. And it seems like Jonathan's case is the perfect storm. He has been powerless against all of the forces working against him.

To be honest, I cannot say for 100 percent certainty that Jonathan is innocent. But there are SO many doubts as to his guilt that I cannot believe a jury was able to reach a unanimous verdict. It really makes me distrust the system. If I still have these questions in my mind, how was the jury able to over-rule them?

Jonathan's lawyer is filing an appeal, so our faith has to be that the appellate process will be more objective than his trial was. If Jonathan did abuse Alex he absolutely deserves to be punished, but until they can prove that to me beyond a reasonable doubt, I will not believe that justice is being served.


Elaine said...

That is so sad. Because of circumstances in our life, I no longer trust the judical system. I remember one time when a big business owed Morris like 30 grand and so we went to court to get our deserved money. The judge was literally NOT listening to the proceedings and I could see him not even paying attention. Because Morris was the little guy , the judge ruled no contest so we had to just walk away. Other times we have also been really screwed which is so discouraging. But with something as serious as this it makes me sick for the whole family.

Missy and Andy said...

That is insane! My sister's ex husband had 20 counts of abuse on his 2 month old baby and got out with 9 months in prison and 2 years of community service.

I completely agree that the judicial system is ridiculous and very unjust!

Chris said...

I have a few questions. Where was the baby and who had him when he went into the coma? What were the circumstances there. What a sad, sad situation. Lots of prayers in the baby's behalf and for your bro-inlaw. Life isn't fair sometimes and it's hard to understand. I sure hope they can get to the truth for everyones sake.

Jen said...

That is very disheartening. I don't know the source of the stat or if it is accurate anymore, but I did once hear that it is 5 times harder for a woman to be put behind bars than it is for a man. I was frustrated by that, because a woman at a place I worked embezzled over $25,000.00 and didn't go to jail, nor did a female teacher at our local HS who had sex with a 16/17 year old boy. If the gender had been reversed, that lady would be in jail for sure. So sorry for this trial!