Friday, June 5, 2009

... And Justice from All

Wednesday night, The Field Negro posted this disturbing story about Jose Carrasquillo, a Philadelphian accused of brutally raping an 11-year-old girl, leaving her "crying and bleeding" in the street. Apparently, the Philadelphia police began circulating his picture around the city, describing him as a "person of interest," and the local FOP offered a $10,000 for his immediate arrest. As Field put it, they put a bounty on his head. Subsequently, a group of teens found Carrasquillo and beat him within an inch of his life, egged on by a growing mob.

At the time I quipped that if I caught someone who harmed my family, I'd make the poor bastard call 911 and tell the authorities, "My body can be found at..." I was trying to be funny (a bad habit I too often indulge--with very limited results), but only so funny.

I've always found the concept of vengeance understandable. If someone hurts you or your family, I can understand why you would go after that person. If I were found on a jury in such a case, I'd completely sympathize with the vigilante. I would most definitely convict, but I would sympathize.

I feel even stronger about that nowadays. As soon as my wife became pregnant, that sentiment grew exponentially within my breast. When Pooh was born, I think that feeling became seismic. I simply feel more viscerally now that I have a child. As I confessed before, when Joe Biden choked up talking about the loss of his wife and daughter during last year's VP debate, I choked up. The very idea of losing one's loved ones simply tore me up. For that reason, I can barely watch the local news, which always try to terrify us parents with the latest threat, disease, chemical, drug, toy. I can't even watch movies with sick kids in it. I simply cannot stomach the very notion of my family's coming to harm. So, if that poor, raped girl's family somehow got their hands on Carrasquillo (whether guilty or not) and castrated him (as her grandmother claimed she'd do) or worse, I could definitely sympathize. I don't even want to think about it, but I think I could do the same.

However, mob violence is a completely different thing. Now, I've never seen the mob first hand. The closest I came was a weird incident in a night market in Taiwan, where a bunch of guys decided to beat one of their fellow merchants. It was utterly bizarre. They took turns beating on the poor bastard one at a time, just like a kung fu flick, while we all just watched. It was weird but nothing as brutal as what I hear from some of my more traveled friends who have witnessed it. Nothing as brutal as the attack that put Carrasquillo in the hospital earlier this week.

For roughly 100 years (from the end of the Civil War to the end of the Civil Rights era), America's South was ravaged by mob violence and vigilante justice. There were periods within that time frame when hundreds of black men were barbarically lynched a year. In the beginning years of the South's "Redemption", thousands of black men (and some white Republicans) went missing. No one was spared the wrath of the white mob. Towns like Rosewood, Florida, and entire counties like Rockdale County, Georgia, were ethnically cleansed of their black populations. Blacks were lynched for being accused of sexually assaulting white women, for being "uppity," for having the audacity to run for political office or even voting. They were lynched over labor disputes, property disputes, or simply looking at someone the wrong way. Blacks were held in abject terror for over a century because there was no rule of law--only the caprices of the mob.

The Carrasquillo case does not seem to be racially motivated. This is simply a case of someone accused of raping a child and getting what many feel he deserved. I'm not saying I don't feel the same way. I don't exactly know how I feel because it's not about that. This beatdown is about America's justice system. And we Americans have decided that we are not a mob, that we have gone beyond that.

We are a country of laws, and we cannot condone what those teenagers did to Carrasquillo. What is even more inexcusable is what Philly's Fraternal Order of Police did to promote such a beatdown to happen. Not only did they put a bounty on the man's head, but, apparently, a city camera caught the beating on video and, when the police arrived, the video mysteriously cut off. There's absolutely no telling how many times they put in their two cents in the fracas (I'm guessing at least $1.98).

Look, I have absolutely no sympathy for child molesters/rapists. I hope they rot in hell with every fiber of my being. However, as much as I hate to admit it, they, too, deserve the protection of the law. This incident smacks too much of frontier justice, those Southern lynchings, too much of vengeance.

I am against the death penalty because I feel it's more about satisfying a family's need for vengeance than it has anything to do with the concept of justice. And I don't feel that it is the State's responsibility to seek vengeance. Theirs is to mete out justice. Whether Jose Carrasquillo is guilty or not of beating and raping that 11-year-old girl, he did not receive justice at the end of those teenagers' bats this week. It was vengeance pure and simple, aided and abetted by the Philadelphia Police Department. And there's no way I can be for that.


Demeter said...

A very interesting and opinionated piece. Looking forward to reading more ...


boukman70 said...

Thanks, Lena. Welcome aboard!