The Courtroom Is Just as Corrupt as Capitol Hill

July 8, 2011  |  

By Charles D. Ellison

The tragedy of a young life lost before she even enjoyed the sunshine of her youth seems lost amid the catcalls, yells and threats swirling about soon-to-be-freed Casey Anthony.  Many of us are now caught up in the pure incredulity of the verdict.  And despite that forgotten sadness of it, there is something truly comical in watching the jaw drops and gawks of folks who can’t shake this baseless faith in a corrupt justice system.

It’s comedy to watch the angry disappointment of Casey-haters outside that Orlando courthouse, from those with nothing better to do than languish in the Florida heat with picket signs, to the Internet trolls clicking “Like” on her unofficial hate page.  Some folks are caught on camera actually bawling, snot and tears flowing down the face in uncontrollable fits of awe.  One can only wonder the cost to Orlando taxpayers for Casey’s security once she’s out of jail.

Of course, a large segment of black folks watching all this unfold are, for the most part, impervious to the emotions on cable television.  This is par for the course as far as several hundred years worth of abuse caused by that same system.  Of course she’s “not guilty,” say some.  Perception rules everything around us, argue others.  The assumption is that juries don’t throw “pretty white girls” under the judicial bus.  But – and we all know where this rather typical argument ends up – if she were a black female …

That last part of that argument is, actually, quite difficult to push back on practical grounds.  Anthony, who lies so much that it is more than certainly pathological, will enjoy the freedom of technicalities rather than true innocence.  Yet, folks will certainly want to compare a white mother in Orlando to a black mother in Ohio, who was jailed and fined for doing what thousands quietly do: falsify addresses to put their kids in a better school district.  Or, the case of a homeless black Connecticut woman who, despite her checkered past with drug dealing and prostitution, was targeted by authorities for using a fake address to simply put her kids in school.

While it’s difficult to compare these cases to Anthony on the specifics, folks are going to call it as they perceive it.  Not to mention the countless stories of mothers – particularly mothers of color – who are daily done wrong by a court system that cares not about their victimization at the hands of abusers.  While folks are melting in Orlando heat to express outrage at the Anthony verdict; you never get that kind of venom directed at the very system encouraging the inequalities.

Collectively, we are quick to point blame at politicians for immaturity, ineptitude and corruption.  And we’ll even throw in “vampire” or “ambulance chasing” lawyers for good measure.  But, for reasons driven by pop-cultural nonsense and cinematic “Law and Order” mythology, society refuses to apply that same invective reasoning to judges, courtrooms and convoluted legal codes with mad loopholes.  Because we buy into the notion that all things are equal under Lady Justice.  Yet, we fail to catch her when she steps outside for a smoke or when she’s on the corner selling goods and cutting sleazy deals.  In fact, there are those of us who laugh and gossip about friends, co-workers or family trapped in legal cases that seem so simple and easy to resolve.  We want to think that all cases will play out like an Erin Brockovich fable or a cozy John Grisham novel.  We forget to consider the nasty details between the crime and the years before some are lucky enough to even see a verdict or the money spent by those who can least afford to.

The courtroom is just as political as Capitol Hill.  Walk in on any local or county court house on any given day and just sit back and watch real “justice” unleashed.  It’s really all a game of lawyers and judges linked by golf tournaments, lunches and campaign contributions.  Judges on lower circuits dream of appointments to higher circuits, and many are loathe to engage or anger the influential attorney who stands in the way.  Heart breaking deals are often made in chambers against the victims of grisly acts of injustice, from battered women seeking shelter and protective orders to bankrupt families seeking help from predatory creditors.   It’s an endless cycle.  And until we wake up and call it out, we won’t understand it until we find ourselves in a similar rut.


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