If one wants to talk about the movie and whether the person being prosecuted was guilty or not, I don’t have much doubt on the “Not Guilty”. There are too many indicators to not only free him of the guilt, but probably to haul up the law-enforcers for unnecessarily harassing him. Of course, initially he was natural prime suspect, but within a short time, the detectives, if they are worth their salt, should have had doubts and followed up other leads, probably arresting the actual murderer.
Let me go over the case again.
The motherless boy was subjected to physical abuse by his father from childhood. He lost mother at the age of 9, but the abuse could have started with mother living. On the fateful day, he had another of the usual altercations with his father, which ended as usual with his getting beaten up. I agree with the juror who said that it could have been two too many. But before that, something else should happen of which there was no mention in the proceeding. None mentioned that the boy had any habit of confronting the abuser, physically or even verbally.
Before resorting to the extreme action, this should have happened a few times. Any cornered animal, would snarl a few times, throw the paws in shadow boxing, before it feels too threatened to throw itself on the attacker, even if it is a large dog threatening a small kitten.
There could be some factors which would prevent the boy from confronting.
- First is of course his having some soft corner towards his only living relative,
- He could have some sort of respect towards their relation, or age, which inhibited him. We have seen that pattern (with regards to age) in Juror #6, or what Juror #3 craved for but didn’t get (relation).
- It could be due to his physical inferiority. I don’t know the father’s physique, but the boy didn’t look like a physical one.
Now if I look at each of these, putting myself on the boy’s shoe, I will assume that in first two cases, the boy is not likely to kill his father. Even when he is furious, his subconscious will prevent him.
In this case, he has committed the crime full four hours after the confrontation. The altercation took place at around 20:00 Hrs., whereas the murder was at midnight. In first two mental frames, definitely it should be sufficient cool-down period, unless another altercation took place, for which he was ready (to kill).
There was some scuffle at the apartment, which the witness claimed, just before the “I am going to Kill You” and then the next second he (or someone else) had successfully killed the victim. So though remote, but the possibility exists. However still, this scuffle should have been preceded by some altercation, which the witness must have heard too, if he heard the “I am going to…”. Only way the scuffle could take place without verbal appendage was if there was no quarrel. The scuffle was due to the attempt to stab. In that case why didn’t the victim scream?
If it is the third scenario, where the father was physically stronger than the boy, it was strange to note that there was no struggle from him, in offense or even a defensive maneuver. The boy didn’t use a surprise switch-knife strike, but used it overhead. That couple of seconds would be enough for the opponent to put at least some defense in position, and it would be difficult to have a clean strike. Let us forget the switch-ness of the knife, and consider a kitchen knife. You take it out or pick it up from the table, and put your hands above for the force of thrust. It takes time, and there would be at least instinctive evasive reaction from the victim. That might force a couple of stabs, not a single and clean. With him twisting away, his hands coming out in defense to repel the strike, and getting wounded, there has to be several stabs and wounds.
Probably the person striking was several degrees stronger than him, enough to overpower him, not a weak person as the defendant looked like. The plan for murder might have been there, and it was executed during some casual talks. It also explains the absence of fingerprint, probably there was a glove in hand. It doesn’t look to me as an on the spur action. Even if it was, say if the boy had decided to kill the next time he was hit, he won’t be moving around with always a glove in his hand, waiting for the chips to fall, making him angry enough to make the move.
It looks like one which is calculated to the extreme in cold blood. The absence of the fingerprint (probably there was a glove in hand), the timing of the murder within the few seconds that the el-train roared by, drowning all the sounds in the vicinity, all indicate it. Would any one do it just because “Two was too much” and he thought of ending it before the next two? May be, but I don’t suppose so, not before at least one two-sided altercation resulting in a severe beating, not just two punches. It has more of a look of pre-planned cold-blooded murder. That (though not in cold-blood) could have taken place immediately after the fight at 20:00 Hrs, had he gone out, bought the knife with the intention and come back to fulfil it.
The altercation before the act would need the person to be much stronger than the victim to overpower him and stab clean. Did the witness assume the scuffle too? A neat strike would be easier when taken the victim off guard. Since it was a pre-planned murder, most probably on an unsuspecting victim, a surprise strike wouldn’t be difficult.
This four-hour gap between the last altercation and the murder time is very significant. Next significant part is the purchase of the knife. After the fight at 20:10, the boy didn’t go out immediately and purchase it, but did it after half an hour (20:45). What went on in his mind during this time? It could be that the fire burning inside was escalating and not extinguishing, as he walked on the road, till he made up his mind and walked into the pawnshop. But I would rather propose that he walked in to calm down, for a window shopping. When he saw this fancy knife, which incidentally was an important tool for his trade, he bought it. It most certainly wasn’t purchased with an intention to kill his father with it. That would make him straight walk to the shop and then come back with the knife home. Even otherwise, who would buy a fancy knife, only one of its kind? It would be far more intelligent to buy a non-descriptive one.
After purchasing the knife, he met his friends on the street, and instead of taking a quick leave, he went ahead with them and partied. Strange behavior for one who had made up his mind. Not only that, he (most certainly with pride) showed them his latest acquisition, with which he was shortly going to murder his father or at least was with the intention for it! That has been clearly brought out by the witnesses, but no one asked whether at that time he was seething with anger. He should have been if the situation was as indicated by prosecution, but no mention of that implies he wasn’t. It would have been a very strong point for prosecution and they won’t have failed to capitalize on it. The witnesses, whether the pawn-shop owner, or his own friends, were not too alienated to the prosecutors, they didn’t fail to recognize the weapon, which they could easily have. The pawn-shop owner I can understand, but there was no need for his friends to have mentioned that the knife was shown to them.
After the party, he went back home at around 11. Till then there is no mismatch of timing between the opponents, so I would take them as facts. That makes around two hours of party, which should further cool him down, unless he was vocal in the party too, of which there is no mention. If he was seething with fury, it would have found expression, with due help from the liquor consumed. I would take it a most certain thing that he bought the knife as a fancy item from the pawn shop. Of course, though it wasn’t bought with an intention, still he could have used it for killing. But that won’t have been for the 20:00 Hrs. fight but a later one, which doesn’t find mention.
Rest of the arguments are bought out by the defence (Jurors). It includes his not taking the knife with him after stabbing, though he knew that it was an uncommon one and could be traced to him. And that is despite his being calm in mind enough to ensure that there was no fingerprint. The Jurors also has proved the that one witness (the old man of the apartment below) has most certainly assumed things and probably so did the other (woman across the el-train). The unable to collect himself to answer the cops are perfectly natural, with the father, he didn’t have any intention of killing, lying dead and he being accused for it. Putting me in his position, I would too be incoherent, even if the seriousness of the charge doesn’t make a chairman of me.
My bet would be on someone from the father’s circle, who had a grouse against him. That could be some share not paid or gambling or otherwise debts. He would have seen the knife, when the boy was quite proudly showing it to his friends and then bought a similar piece. If that’s so, the chance wasn’t a million to one but as nearest to hundred percent as could be. I won’t say cent percent even in such an open and shut argument, since that figure doesn’t exist for us, statisticians.
After that he waited for opportunity. That the opportunity came the same day was incidental. He would have waited for the next day, or created circumstances so that the boy went out. In fact had he been intelligent, he would have suggested “There is an excellent movie running”, not necessarily to the boy, but within his hearing range. That’s how we channelize events through subtle and indirect suggestions.
He saw the boy going out at the ‘Movie Show’ timing, and knew that he got his man, and the rest happened as he had written in the script. Had the boy per chance come back earlier, depending on when, either there won’t have been a murder that day, or it would have been already fait accompli, like what happened. The whole act where the actual murderer could have been implicated, including the fight before murder, lasted less than a minute. In this case, it would be a million to one chance, that the boy would have walked in that time-slot.
Do they run a midnight show over there? Here, by regulation, the last show should be over by midnight (the last show is about 21:00 Hrs to just before 00:00 Hrs). Of course, a bill was introduced for 24X7 operation, but I don’t think many theaters have grabbed the opportunity. It probably won’t cover the operation cost for them. After all, if one wants to watch a late-night movie, probably he would prefer in home-theatre, rather than a movie-theatre, where the personal safety and the cost are big constraints. Low cost business, like restaurants or joints could afford it though. But since there was no contradiction on the timing of the show, only question was whether he had gone at all, so I would take that it exists.
The timing of each and every sub-event cried out a most probable not guilty. But the police didn’t listen to it. That isn’t too strange. Everywhere the cops would look for a scape-goat. If that is the real goat, it is well and good, otherwise, as far as the case stands it would be alright.
This aspect, acting against natural justice by the people who are to ensure it, is also called state sponsored or encouraged crime/terrorism/racism. It is not limited to a specific area. It happens from places which are notorious (in other’s eyes) like Colombia, North Korea etc. to places say Sudan, Rwanda, Namibia, to the professed up-keeper of Human values, the USA. The killing of the boy at a park, who had just entered teen, without sufficient provocation or brutal manhandling resulting in maiming of the septuagenarian, on an evening walk just near his apartment by the police sometime back are only a few cases where the law enforcers have themselves done it. In other cases, by indirectly supporting, either through verbal language or body language, they encourage the act.
Why does it happen? There may be many reasons.
- It could be due to prejudices of a section against other. The Hutu-Tutsi conflict may be an example, where the army itself could indulge in the selective act.
- It could be prejudices of individuals. All the white officers won’t kill blacks, but there would be quite a few, who would. It might not be a killing for the purpose of it, but due to the inbuilt distrust against the others, which makes them suspect each and every move of their targets. I am not talking of the extra-judicial killing of the known (not suspected) criminals. That is a sensitive subject, and in my opinion, that illegal act isn’t immoral. It is more so, since in most of the times, due to their links and management (say threatening witnesses, bribing the prosecutors), they get out scot-free (in absence of sufficient evidence). Of course, to save their face, when they too know that they are letting out a criminal, the judiciary sometime pass a stricture against prosecution for not doing their homework. But that, as I said, is only for face saving and doesn’t serve any useful purpose. The number of such cases, are many and on very flimsy ground, even if you look at them judicially, but probably judiciary isn’t supposed to. Sometime back there was a case. A young girl was travelling by train at night, and unfortunately, though in the women’s compartment, she was alone. A person came in and tried to either rob her or molest her. She jumped out, or fell down the moving train. As she lay on ground grievously hurt, the person too came over and decamped with her belongings but not before raping her. The physical violence unfortunately resulted in her death. Everything was proved. The verdict? Not of Murder, but just the rape, injury and so on. If that isn’t a travesty of justice, then what is? Of course, no one could live in the mind of the criminal, but a common sense would tell that with a girl in that condition, any further violence had a very good probability of killing her, and it actually did. But as per judiciary, probably since his intention was raping and not killing, so he should be tried for it. It isn’t only here, Pistorius got only six years for murder of Steenkamp (thought an intruder in bathroom when she had walked in after a fight!)
- Sometime when one of their own is involved, obviously there would be ‘Adjustments’ and the prosecution would act as defendant by proxy (for example racial murders) or try to make another person scapegoat.
- It could also be to solve the problem. They have to close the case. Faster they do, more the accolades they would get, from people, press and more important from their bosses. They zero on the most probable and then selectively disseminate the information. Absorbing and bringing out the ones that suit their hypothesis, and fuzzing or simply failing to mention, the ones that don’t. Usually they are criminal, though not necessarily, and quite often not of same crime. It is natural for the police to arrest Jean Valjean and put him on the defendant’s chair, “Guilty, unless otherwise proved”. It is very common, and much more than one would assume. There are many innocents on death-row, past chair or at least languishing in a cell (Like Andy Dufresne in Shawshank Redemption). How many claims of innocence we would believe ourselves? In that case, how could we expect the people, the cops and the DA, who are framing them, convinced or deliberately, would?
- Sometime it would be for self-promotion. That is further supported by the immunity of the enforcers. The famous SDNY Attorney, recently fired by Trump is a similar case. In his over zealousness, for personal growth and ego satisfactions, more than often he had crossed over the line. Even before he was stripped of his immunity, someone has dared to bring him to his own arena, the court, for suppressing the facts and in fact fuzzing them, insinuating that the untruth as truth. It resulted in a complete collapse of his successful business. But how many are there like Mr. Ganek, who would dare to challenge the media created blue-eyed sacrosanct of the public? Media of course isn’t to be completely blamed for it, I would put say around 90% only on it. After all, it is they who give the juicy tid-bits to media, who naturally would play to their tune, the juiciness suiting their purpose, in terms of TRP. One of the politicians in India too is also doing exactly this, again for self-growth. Like the DA, who wanted to rise, up the hierarchy, this politician too dream of it. The DA of course hasn’t spelt it out, which the politician has.
- The self-promotion is of course associated with ego. But sometimes it could be ego alone, sans the expressed or even inherent attempt at promotion. “Since I think/thought so, after all I am the boss in this matter, am not I?”
- It could be due to just laziness and plain apathy. “I am not bothered whether he is innocent or not. Anyway, it would take some effort to think of and then prove any other theory. Why should I do that, when I could as well spend the time in other more fruitful activities, like watching Soaps or base-ball game like Juror #7?”
- There could be other reasons too, I will add if I get another one. But probably the main aspects are covered.
There is an interesting case, most probably travesty of justice again, and in this case due to glaring inconsistencies, the Jury were not as thorough as this one. The case is the 1985 Virginia double murder case, where Jens Soering was convicted of brutal murder of his girlfriend’s parents, and he is still in. The case is quite similar to Shashank Redemption, but more tragic. Here the boy, when and if he gets out, will not have any future, since now he is in his fifties, with the whole life wasted behind bars. He doesn’t have a treasure hidden for future. Even the more tragic part is that almost definitely, the person who he tried to protect, turned state witness against him. If I believe the Washington Post report, there is no doubt of his innocence. Probably the only thing he could be charged with was destroying evidence or rather creating alibis for the perpetrators (as per the report, there were multiple).
The technology in 1985 wasn’t that advanced, to match DNA and release the innocent. The technology available now indicate that almost certainly he wasn’t even present at the scene of the crime. There is no evidence corroborating his admission (of guilt), and all the available ones suggest he wasn’t there. The person he was protecting wasn’t alone and probably there were two more persons, but none were him. But even with the information available at that time, leave aside the technology (DNA fingerprinting), there was still sufficient of gaps in the story, which should raise enough doubts to even negate his confession of guilt and make people wonder why was he lying.
That was of course an idiotic act on his part, but people under emotional frame do it. He thought that being a foreigner, he had diplomatic immunity. He didn’t know that this immunity has a limit. The worse thing he did was to escape the country, which for any jury would be equivalent to admission of guilt. After he was extradited, and to protect the other one, he confessed, the case was sealed, despite all the indicators pointing some other way. Of course, I am making my statements as per the story on the newspaper, which need not be factual. But the report mentions, and since that is as per the quotation of the people who have framed him (the cops), who had accepted that,
“I, my deputy and the prosecutor, were under intense pressure to solve the case and that law enforcement did what it could with the information it had available all those years ago.”
I would disagree, even then, leave aside DNA matching, there were too many other things which should have put alarm-bells ringing in their (which they switched off due to the pressure) and Juror’s mind (where no such switch should exist). But we should also remember that the Jurors are from us and not divorced from reality and behave judicially. They behave as the public do, and they proved that for Tom Robinson, in “To Kill A Mockingbird”.
It isn’t fictitious but a real-life story. There would be many similar travesties of justice happening everywhere, due to some factor or other working behind the thick curtain, the mind of the decision makers. Not in all the cases it would be with a motive, say of revenge. In some of the cases it might be, but that would be due to subconscious prodding, like in case of Juror #3 or Juror #10. It would be very rare when it would be knowingly done (but that too do happen). I am just taking it as a typical case, since it happens to suit my agenda.
What went wrong in this case? Of course, one of the things were that there was no John Ford equivalent in the Jury, who won’t assume things and truly follow “Not guilty, unless proven guilty beyond any reasonable doubt”
If I add up few facts, he would seem to be guilty beyond any doubt.
- Though he did visit a place quite a bit away, and there was proof of it, but the mileage log of the rental car indicated that there was a possibility of an up and down trip to scene of crime from that place. His statement that he lost the way (there were no GPS then, so possible) wasn’t believed. None would if the dices are stacked against.
- He wasn’t initially a suspect, but he became the one beyond reasonable doubt the moment he skipped the country.
- He confessed to his guilt. Probably, as he said, assuming that he had immunity. It seems to me that he did really think so, but he was quite young too. The actual perpetrator, whom he tried to protect, being US Citizen anyway won’t have any type of immunity. This taking up other’s crime on own shoulders happen in movies, but it happened here in real life too.
- He claimed that he did it to revenge on the wrongs committed on the person. Quite believable motive for any juror.
Obviously, any juror will pronounce guilty. Had he at least pleaded “Not Guilty”, the jurors would have thought of deliberating.
Why these types of miscarriage of justice take place? Obviously, the main reasons are the various baggage that are carried by the people who make or influence the decision, along with the normal baggage and prejudice, I have seen many where it is crucial to act fast and close the case as quickly as possible. Especially in these high-profile cases, another major factor comes into existence, the public. There would be a massive public outcry, in case there is delay in identification and arrest of the criminals. The cops have to be on their toes till the arrest takes place, and in many case, just to save their skins and department’s image in public, they put the most probable who is still in their reach, behind bar.
Now let me look into the very basic.
How do I, or the experts – the cops, detectives, lawyers, judges and juries, or the common public, identify the suspect and the motive behind the crime?
I have mentioned it several times here, as well as elsewhere, that I put myself in their shoes and try to understand them. How do I do it? It is done as they do in movies, not on screen but off screen. The actor casts himself in the role, and starts thinking like the character in the story. There would be some helps from the story, in this effort, but quite some part he had to contribute from his own, based on what and how much he understood of the character. Obviously, a fictitious character has to be interpreted the way you understand it, and that would be depending on how you personally would behave.
That is a most natural and logical method to understand what and why of the actions. This is how the detectives analyse the situation. Based on pointers, they join the points, as they consider, had they been in the place of the each of the individuals and the person or person’s action fits the situation to the nearest become the prime suspects. Of course, I or they wouldn’t expect that to meet to a dot. But when a few dots are found to be left unconnected, we try to think of the reason, and under what circumstances those too would have been a part of our polygon. Soon we have all the pieces falling in their place and we have one, or in extreme cases a few more suspects, and then we go ahead and put them behind bars.
There is nothing wrong in this approach. There are umpteenth number of article, if one takes the pain to look at the web, on this aspect. “How to Think Like a Criminal”, “The Criminal’s Thinking in Extremes”, “To stop cybercrime we need to think like the criminals”, “Criminals Think Differently – Understand Them & Remain Armed” ….
I am doing exactly that, thinking the way criminal, or any other protagonist is doing and the analyzing the actions, finding whether the action is right, or it is too diametrically opposite to be true. If it is a movie or novel, it is probably due to the error of the writer. But if it is real life, that error from The Writer isn’t possible, and hence probably I am barking at the wrong tree, the cat is elsewhere. In case of Soering, there definitely is The Cat on the tree I am guarding. There is no assumption about it. Not only the cat has mewed (confessed), but also, I have seen it bolting and going up the tree, and then it has shown its face from quite close by, in fact so close that I could get my jaws on it. Obviously, I won’t have any way of knowing that this wasn’t the cat which had pawed me while I was sleeping, that was another one, in another tree.
But we rarely do that way. If we do, we would be committing a big error. We, as persons are individuals, and no individual is normal. What we do is, lose our individuality, and think the way we assume a normal person would, or if we are expert in psychology, and had read or written the articles above, we would think the way a corresponding criminal (i.e. murderer, if the case is of murder, robber in case it is robbery) would.
We imagine whether a normal person would behave in the way the hypothesis said the protagonist did, by first converting ourselves into a normal person, or as we consider a normal person is, and then play-acting the moves, bringing in his probable emotions based on the situations, and letting our instincts tell where the behaviors that resulted in the result were normal and most probable or not.
What is a normal person? It is the aggregate average of the common persons that we come in contact with. Thus say a normal “White man of middle class of 40 years” would be one who is a working man, with a bit of conflict in office with his bosses, but not too much. He is easy going, a bit reserved, but friendly. Settled, but probably not too happy, family man with demanding children and a working wife, with a few minor conflicts taking place in his family, which sometimes are carried over to his external life etc.
For a different age and background this definition would differ, as would be corresponding to the person who is defining it. But the law of average of the 12 men of the Jury would normalize the normal and bring it as near the normal of that part of society would have.
When we have twelve persons looking at an amorphous irregular object (the hypothesis), from 12 different angle, they polish off the sharp edges from their angle. Of course, I would like to note that they don’t polish the edges of their side, but the opposite sides (i.e. inconsistencies). When the edges are too strong to be removed (the facts deny it’s removal), or they clash between the polishing persons, the hypothesis becomes doubtful. More and more are the person, better the object resembles a flawless sphere, and we have a solid hypothesis and a criminal, guilty beyond doubt.
It undoubtedly is one of the best ways to get your man (or woman). In that case why does it fail so often?