I am not a huge fan of the justice system in the United States. I think it’s inappropriately named since there is very little real justice in it, much like products that advertise “made with real cheese” even though most of it is partially hydrogenated oil.
You shouldn’t be able to buy or sell (or spray) justice. The system is broken. Our broken system is still slightly better than a lot of other systems in the world, but that doesn’t make it good.
I’ve complained before about the system failing others, but this post contains all the ways it has failed me personally. A word of warning, it will probably make you angry.
1. Civil suit
My first brush with the legal system was as a civil plaintiff. When I was twenty, I was at an old theater in Detroit that had a fashion show earlier in the evening. Out from the stage, they built a ramshackle runway with galvanized steel poles holding up stage lights. The whole thing was held together with duct tape.
They should have taken it down after the runway show, but they didn’t. So, when some drunken monkey decided to swing on it, the whole thing came crashing down on my head. There were five lights, each weighing 75 pounds, plus the weight of the pole.
It split my head wide open and dented my skull. I spent over five hours in the emergency room getting layer upon layer of stitches for a three and a half inch open head wound. The very nice orderly who sewed my skull together lost count somewhere around five hundred stitches. The emergency room bill was $3,600.
I sued the venue partly because those assholes refused to call an ambulance. They claimed it was bad for business, so my friends had to drive me to the hospital. I also sued because it ruined my life. I had the memory of a 90-year-old Alzheimer’s patient for a while. I had to quit my job and drop out of college, losing an entire semester’s tuition in the process, because I was incapable of functioning normally.
After a few years of trying to make it through an impregnable defense of shell corporations, my lawyer came back with a settlement of $10,000. The law firm took $6,500. For having my life destroyed forever, I got $3,500. Remember, the emergency room visit alone was $3,600.
Meanwhile, some idiot spills hot coffee in their lap and sues MacDonald’s for millions because they ordered hot coffee and weren’t warned that it might be hot.
2. Child sexual abuse
I was sexually abused as a child. My parents did nothing about it. They never went to the police. He was never charged with anything. When I was an adult and could legally do something about it, the statute of limitations had expired. I could sue him in civil court, but without the criminal charges to back it up, it would be my word against his again. At this point, pursuing civil action against him is all I can do. It would cost me a small fortune and I’m not up to the task of facing him in open court yet. I’d rather not face him at all.
I understand that some idiotic people use child abuse laws for their own personal gain or for revenge, and those people should be prosecuted, but some of us are not lying. Some of us really need justice. Some of us don’t have the courage to face our abusers or even admit that it even happened yet. It takes time to get to the point where we can face it head on, but time is not on our side when it comes to prosecuting child sexual abuse.
I don’t think that there should be a statute of limitations on child sexual abuse. Because we are children when it happens and we’re unable to do anything about it at the time, we should have the ability to do something as adults, regardless of when that is. A crime like raping a child shouldn’t go unpunished simply because too much time has passed. We should not let the liars disallow justice for the real victims.
3. Domestic violence
Ugh. I seriously hope none of you have to go through domestic violence. The demoralization we receive from the monsters is nothing compared to how hopeless the law is when it comes to victims.
The only positive part of my years-long legal battle to put the monster in prison was getting a restraining order. That part was relatively easy and handled with great tact. I limped into a courtroom with bruises, cuts, black eyes and police reports, and walked out with a temporary restraining order.
The rest of it was positively abysmal. Like child sexual abuse, domestic violence is your word against his. Other than bruises on our bodies, we typically have no proof of domestic violence.
I ran into a wall trying to prove that more than $10,000 in credit card debt wasn’t actually mine. It turns out that it is impossible to legally prove that you didn’t know something. He stole my mail, applied for credit cards in my name, took cash advances from them and paid me my own debt for rent. He stole all the mail associated with the credit cards so I had absolutely no idea that they even existed. However, trying to prove that I didn’t know was impossible.
You signed the agreement, therefore, it’s binding. That is not my signature! We sent you notice after notice of debt and you did nothing. I never got the mail! We called you, too. That’s not even my phone number! I’m sorry, ma’am, but you’ve had ample opportunity to comply and you haven’t. The debt is not mine! Yeah, likely story.
Sadly, I wasn’t the only one he did this to either. My neighbors also had credit cards in their names. You’d think that the fact that we both had them and they had the same signature would have proved our innocence, but no. Someone had to pay and it wasn’t going to be him, so I was saddled with the debt.
I talked to a very nice Detroit police detective who tried to get security footage of the ATM he used, but banks only keep it on file for a short period. It was already erased. He filed a warrant for fraud anyway, based only on my word. I think it was all the crying I did that made him want to help me. He also helped me talk to the federal government about filing a mail tampering charge.
In the end, I was able to get four warrants for his arrest: one federal mail tampering felony warrant, one felony fraud warrant from Detroit and two warrants from Cambridge, Massachusetts–misdemeanor assault and battery, and felony property damage.
A few weeks later, a friend of mine spotted the Monster in Detroit. Knowing I had managed to get a Detroit warrant for his arrest, she called the cops. They told her that, unless he was actively committing a crime, there was nothing they could do. The warrant was only good if they could get him on something else. She told them that he also had a federal warrant. Same thing. She told them about the two warrants from Massachusetts. Sorry, but those don’t count here.
I called the Cambridge police on the off chance that they could do something since there were two warrants there. Sorry, but Massachusetts doesn’t extradite for anything but murder. He only tried to kill me and didn’t actually kill me, so there was nothing anyone could do. Because I am still alive, he is free.
None of the warrants were ever cashed in, and now, they are expired. He left the state and got away free and clear forever for what he did to me. There is nothing I can do about that anymore ever. Unless he tries to kill me again, he will never be charged with a crime for attempting to kill me.
So, yeah, the justice system… I’m not a fan. It’s never done me any good as a victim. I have never gotten any justice out of it.
On the other side of the issue, The Innocence Project has helped exonerate hundreds of people who were falsely convicted due to lack of DNA testing, false confessions or bad eyewitness identification. One of my good bloggy friends, Rarasaur, is still in jail now because she can’t afford bail for a crime she didn’t even commit.
I do not trust the justice system. I do not believe in it and I sure as hell hope I never have to deal with it again.