Friday, 27 February 2015

Crime and Punishment

Up this morning bleary eyed from reading into the wee small hours after an extremely busy day.  Not the novel written by someone with a difficult to pronounce Slavic name beginning with 'D' as today's title might suggest. All my life I've steered away from Russian literature for no other reason than the books seem to be unfeasibly fat and written in the smallest print known to man.  No, over the last few weeks I've been reading   Injustice and now have been alerted by the library that I can't renew the book any more times.  If  I don't give it back on Saturday they'll start fining me and that will never do.  As accounts of law cases are not my usual reading it's been hard going but so worthwhile.

Clive Stafford Smith, a lawyer who's a far cry from the fat cat variety, is a  hero of mine.  He and his charity Reprieve represent people around the world who've been convicted of capital crime for peanuts when compared to the fees of those corporate types. I heard him speak a couple of years ago when he told the story of Kris Maharaj, the subject of this book.  He's been in a US prison since 1987 for a double murder in spite of substantial evidence  that suggests that he did not commit the crime.  Although Kris is no longer on Death Row attempts to overturn his conviction have to date been unsuccessful seemingly because of the Kafka-esque nature of the US justice system.

I've always been against the death penalty on the basis that I don't hold with that eye for an eye stuff. Two wrongs can't possibly make a right.  I've also felt that  that it would be so wrong if just one person was mistakenly executed.  This book demonstrates that as the US justice system stands it is likely that many go to their death legally under-represented in a system that is mightily stacked against them if they're charged with a capital offence.  It seems that if you're poor and uneducated you haven't got a cat in hell's chance of getting off especially when those who sit on the  jury in capital cases have to be in favour of the death penalty .    It's a fascinating read that has made me  cry at times.

After finishing this tale I have two things to say to the American people.  We all want people who've commit crimes to be sent down. I'm pretty sure that's a given.  But it has to be the right person who's convicted.   And when I punish my child for naughtiness I do it with sadness.  To inflict pain on another, even when it's justified in terms of retribution isn't a cause of celebration and glee.  I finish with a quote from the book from the Sixth Century BC philosopher Anacharsis.  Sadly it still applies in the 21st century.

Laws are like spiders webs.  They will catch the weak and the poor, but would be torn to pieces by the rich and powerful.


  1. Have you heard the Serial podcasts? They may interest you and if you do listen to them, I'd point you to this website, where the author of the posts analyses all the discrepancies in the case.

    The American legal system seems to be full of these sort of injustices.

    1. Thanks I'll pop over there when I have a mo'! x