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Talk About Rushing to Judgment!

Updated on December 5, 2017
William F. Torpey profile image

Graduated NYU in 1964. Worked in NYC for 2 years in public relations then as reporter and editor before retiring from The Hour newspaper.

Alex Kelly of Darien Convicted

Alex Kelly of Darien, Conn.. on the day of his conviction on rape charges, June 12, 1997.
Alex Kelly of Darien, Conn.. on the day of his conviction on rape charges, June 12, 1997.
F. Lee Bailey, O.J. Simpson and Johnnie L. Cochran.
F. Lee Bailey, O.J. Simpson and Johnnie L. Cochran. | Source

"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.

Alex Kelly Serial Rapist Documentary Part One

Alex Kelly Serial Rapist Documentary Part 2

Alex Kelly Serial Rapist Documentary Part 3

Alex Kelly Serial Rapist Documentary Part 4

Alex Kelly Serial Rapist Documentary Part 5


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    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 9 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Thanks for commenting, troylaplante. Insofar as all of us live under the Constitution, it seems it would be in our best interests to "preserve and defend" it.

    • troylaplante profile image

      troylaplante 9 years ago from Selma, NC

      I often have the same lamentations concerning the demise of the Constitution. That is why I teach the topic with two other panelists at

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 9 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Thanks, Ralph, for commenting. First, I didn't really know the Kellys, but his father, Joe, was a plumber who once priced a job at my house and his mother, Melanie, is a travel agent I used on a couple of occasions. Alex seemed to have an immense ego and was very arrogant. My personal opinion is that he probably pushed the girls too hard and crossed the line. In his own mind, I believe he thinks he did nothing wrong. It's been reported that several girls suffered similar fates, but a good friend of my told me today her daughter was in his class at school and her first words were "he didn't have to rape anybody." He was very handsome. The punishment should fit the crime. He may have been given a harsher sentence because he took off, lived a life of luxury for some eight years, and embarrassed the Darien Police Department.

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 9 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      I'm not sure anything has improved since you wrote the column in 1997. Did Kelly get a fair trial? In your opinion, did he commit the rape? In Michigan and other states there has been a great miscarriage of justice in cases of so-called "Romeo and Juliet" situations where the age difference between the teens involved is small. The boy is convicted of rape and his name goes on the sexual offender website for the rest of his life, making it hard for him to get a job or even rent an apartment. And of course there's also the discrepancy between the sentences for possession of crack cocaine and powder cocaine. I read somewhere that the recent decision is not necessarily going to result in an automatic get out of jail card to individuals sentenced to long sentences for possessing or dealing small amounts of crack.

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 9 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Thanks, gamergirl. You are really quick -- I just pressed the "publish now" button!

    • gamergirl profile image

      Kiz 9 years ago from Antioch, TN

      Interesting Hub. Thumbs up!