Sunday, February 23, 2014

The U.S. Constitution, Love It Already

I am not someone you see at patriotic events, parades, political conventions, rallies, demonstrations or anything remotely similar. I can even skip the national anthem because I don’t attend sports either. I have mixed feelings about the law and its lack of accessibility to the average citizen. But if you want to know something I believe in, then know this, I believe in the American Constitution.

A number of factors have brought this to the forefront of my mind recently. What kicked it off was discovering that Scotland had gotten rid of double jeopardy, which is a constitutional protection in America, a fundamental of our legal system. Scotland's double jeopardy law was 800 years old. However, it had two troublesome cases before it. Those two cases assumed more importance in Scotland than 800 years of double jeopardy protection incredibly enough. The Scots will live to regret this when the people in their lives are hounded continually through trial after trial because a person can now be tried more than once for the same criminal offense. So Scotland chucked double jeopardy law for the following two criminal cases. Specifically, serial killer Angus Sinclair's saliva matched DNA found on the bodies of teenagers Helen Scott and Christine Eadie, who were killed after leaving Edinburgh's World's End pub in 1977 and he will now be tried with that evidence. His 2007 murder trial collapsed when the judge ruled the crown had insufficient evidence. There can also now be a second case against the man who stood trial alongside Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah was cleared of the 1988 terrorist attack that claimed 270 lives after a trial in Holland, under Scots law, in 2001 and can now be tried again. I was appalled  I do not want to be part of any legal system where you can be tried again and again for the same criminal offense. Fortunately, it would be so much harder to change that law here because it is in the Constitution.  It would have to first clear Congress, then the President (or Congress overcomes a Presidential veto) and then be ratified by the states. Almost impossible in other words.

Then I discovered the Woody Allen case revived twenty years later in first my Vanity Fair subscription issue and then my New York Times subscription issue. I don’t want to give up either publication but it is getting close. The fact is that Woody Allen and Mia Farrow were only in court together once and that was over a disputed custody case involving three shared children. The case was decided in favor of Mia Farrow.  Allen was ordered to pay her legal fees and child support and did so. This is a civil case heard solely by a judge.  There was no appeal. There was never any criminal prosecution brought against Allen for child molestation. He was never arrested for it.  He was investigated and the investigators dismissed the case. The statute of limitations has since expired so no case can ever be brought on it.  In short, I am presuming him innocent because that is what the Constitution tells me to do. However, many, many Americans cannot bring themselves to also support their Constitution. They are jumping on soap boxes, all but calling for a public lynching of him more than twenty years later.

a personal aside....  I practiced divorce law and it is axiomatic in that field that child molestation will often come up by one’s client as a way of winning the case. Particularly if a client’s case was weak, suddenly there came from my client, "I think X has sexually abused Y." 

Some people become the worst people they’ve ever been in pursuing these cases.  Some will never come out of it.  They go into a shell of perpetual bitterness and never emerge from it. If they have been scorned, their anger might know no limits. Unless you have handled these cases, you have no idea how much hate and anger can be at their cores. I lasted for ten years doing these cases and could take no more of them. I personally would not want to become buddies with Mia Farrow, who has stored up over twenty years of hate against her ex. The photo to the left shows her skewered and stabbed valentine she made at home and sent to Woody Allen at the time of their breakup. The photo to the right shows her dating writer Philip Roth. Her friend set her up with Roth because they had hating Woody Allen in common. I guess Americans are also willing to trash the constitutional right the defendant has to cross examine his accusers because these Americans are willing to believe this woman, hook, line and sinker without any examination, much less cross examination.  And with a history like this! How many women get fixed up based on a shared interest in hating someone?!

Farrow and Roth further had in common that each of them had written scathing books about their exes. Hers was What Falls Away about her breakup with Woody Allen and his was I Married a Communist about his bitter divorce from actress Claire Bloom. I read both books. Farrow's was dubious factually, very bitter but admittedly entertaining. Roth's was magnificent as a piece of literature. He did perhaps the most precise skewering job of another human being I've ever seen put to paper. He just about eviscerated her as the "fictional character" Eve. I would not want to be involved with either of these two.  They don't forgive or forget anything. Interestingly, there are people on the other end of the spectrum too, those who accept a breakup with grace and a spirit of adapting and moving on. They are just generally very good people who come to accept that life has just tossed them a very bad twist.

returning to the Constitution....  But my story gets worse about some people in America who think our Constitution just isn't doing its job. For awhile I belonged to an online film discussion group. Some of the people who belonged to this group worked in the peripheral film and tv jobs of the industry, such as on makeup, costumes, technology and such with a few actors who worked steadily but in minor roles. I was aghast to learn that these people had personally taken measures to right the wrongs of our legal system. They have to travel around a lot for their work and spent lots of time on location or in studios so they run into some of our more notorious defendants. They feel themselves ideally placed for righting wrongs

For example, John Landis, the film director, was acquitted of manslaughter on the Twilight Zone movie case. Two Asian children and his lead, Vic Morrow, were killed while filming when a helicopter crashed into them. Morrow was decapitated by its blades. It happened as Morrow was carrying them both across water. The entire misadventure was captured on video, above. Landis was violating California’s labor laws when this occurred by filming with children at night. The people in this online film group recounted event after event where they or their cohorts would seek Landis out at his office on the studio lot and then would catcall to him through the doors and windows that he was a murderer. But he was acquitted, I sputtered. But he was guilty, they shot back. “You’re Americans,” I said, “How can you disrespect your Constitution so, perhaps the finest document of its sort?”  They thought I was nuts. (The families of these three victims received very large monetary awards in the civil system, which is an entirely different matter from the criminal.)

After O.J. Simpson was acquitted at his murder trial of his ex wife, he tried to gain entry anew into all of his Hollywood haunts.  All of these people were waiting for him. The minute he set foot on any of these sets or studios, or even an airport they were all commonly using, the catcalls and smears would start again of “Murderer.”  If he tried to stand or sit next to someone, there was also a scene. I protested again and, predictably, they began turning against me for supporting this scum. I left the group not long after as no matter how cogent their film analyses were, I could not stand associating with people who regularly ran roughshod over our Constitution. The other lawyer who was in this film group had no problem with what they were doing.

I have never run into these former notorious defendants, of course. I believe Landis and Simpson likely did commit the offenses. However, a jury found there was reasonable doubt and acquitted. For me, that’s the end of it. Thus, put me at a party or in an airport lounge or in an airplane seat beside either one and I do or say absolutely nothing. I also do not get up and change seats. I respect the Constitution too much to do any of this. I do not want to get to know them. I do not want to converse with them.  But I will be patiently polite until we part. Since Woody Allen was never even arrested or charged with anything and was actually cleared by investigators at the Yale Center, there is no problem of any sort if I am put in the position of meeting him.  I might say at most that I admire his films. 

Meanwhile, I write my blog posts knowing that no one is coming to arrest me for writing my opinions about our law because the First Amendment protects me.  When I do an art project later in the day, no one can tell me what topics I must steer clear of so as to avoid prosecution (ditto) nor can anyone bother me for not practicing my non-existent religion on today, Sunday (ditto).  And that is just one constitutional amendment! This is an amendment our mother country, England, does not have as law to this very day.  We decided to improve on English law in forming this country and incredibly, we did just that.

We enjoy the most rights and protections of any people who have ever lived and the people we should be telling off are not Woody Allen, O.J. Simpson and John Landis. Woody Allen took his daughters with Soon Yi to the theater the other night and other theater goers started heckling and booing him, calling him a molester in front of his two teenage daughters. I was absolutely mortified.  These were presumably educated people.  How can they be so ignorant about every American's basic Constitutional rights and protections?  Or did they know them and just violate them anyway for the hell of it? Do they not appreciate their unique position of being citizens in the limited parts of the world which grant its people the basic freedoms?

The people who should be singled out in public are these fellow Americans who are quite willing to all but shred everyone else's constitutional rights and protections. Put me at a party with them and yes, I may well move away from them after I tell them what I think of their actions and what ingrates they are.

No comments:

Post a Comment