Talk About Rushing to Judgment!
Alex Kelly of Darien Convicted
"Something is rotten in the state of Denmark," the famous quotation from Shakespeare's "Hamlet," may very well apply today to the United States as our system of justice comes under widespread attack.
"The time is out of joint, O cursed spite, that ever I was born to set it right," is another of the great bard's quotations from the same play that I'm beginning to feel akin to.
It's distressing to sit quietly by, moving the deck chairs as the Titanic seeks its way to the bottom of the ocean. There must be something we can do!
A Voice in the Wilderness
Sometimes I feel like a voice in the wilderness when it comes to the preservation of freedoms guaranteed to all of us in the U.S. Constitution. It seems many Americans, for the sake of simplistic solutions to complex problems, would give up many of their most fundamental rights, rights that our predecessors struggled hard to win for us.
Doesn't anyone care about anything anymore?
Of course, people have a right to think, or believe, anything they want -- and I'd be the first to defend that right -- but whatever happened to fair-mindedness?
I was distressed when Rodney King was beaten unmercifully by Los Angeles police officers and many of my friends and associates could see nothing wrong with that despite the clear evidence of the oft-shown videotape. Many said the police were justified because King was breaking the law when he was stopped and "deserved it."
Jury's Verdict Cast Aside
And then there was O.J. Simpson. Virtually everyone I know casts aside the verdict of a duly qualified jury contending they were either prejudiced or incompetent in finding him not guilty as charged.
My associates know better than the jury, of course. After all, they have the benefit and advice of such luminaries as Geraldo Rivera and Charles Grodin -- and a horde of other would-be and has-been lawyers, judges, radio and TV commentators and various other hangers-on.
As they need not consider the untainted evidence the way the jury was obligated to do, neither were they required to follow the instructions of the judge concerning the evidence; nor do they have to follow the judge's advice on the applicability of the law in the case. After all, hearsay and innuendo are far more interesting, provocative and damning than all that dull technical testimony.
But despite all this, it was the Alex Kelly (rape) case that prompted this column.
Alex Kelly Got Off the Hook
All too many of my associates know, of course, that Kelly got off the hook, for now. But he'll get his comeuppance at the retrial. They don't need evidence; they just are certain he's guilty.
As in the O.J. case, many of them say outright that a trial is just a waste of time; he's guilty as sin, they say, so just put him away. Why let the facts, or fairness, or justice, or compassion get in the way of their prejudgments?
The whole situation is symptomatic of many of our social problems today. Any wonder our teen-agers these days are confused and often defiant or, worse -- without hope?
Today's adults are serving as poor examples for our young people today. The same nonthinking attitudes exist when it comes to the political arena -- but that's another story.
Truly, if we hope to gain respect for ourselves, our compatriots and our progeny, we might try respecting others-- at least until they are proven to be unworthy.
I wrote this column as a "My View" for The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, Conn., on Nov. 16, 1996. Alex Kelly, after his conviction in 1997 on rape charges, was sentenced to 16 years in prison. He was released on Nov. 23, 2007 on "good behavior." He had been a star wrestler at Darien High School, where my late wife, Ruth, a registered nurse, was attendance secretary at the time.