Ohio Judge: Serving Cold Dish Of Revenge More Palatable than Justice

I’m not usually given to making extravagant statements. Most of the time. Ok. Make that under normal circumstances. But quite frankly, what I am about to tell you, really belongs in La La land.

It concerns the United States Justice system. Of course it would. You could not get a more spectacular example of eccentricity than the court system in the good old US and A and mostly never, make that rarely, in a good way.

So come with me, if you will, to Painesville, Ohio ( suitably named as you will discover) and the court of Judge Michael Cicconetti. Appearing before him was defendant Diamond T Gaston. Yes that is her real name. Gaston pleaded guilty to assault by using pepper spray on her victim. Now I have no interest in the whys and wherefores or even the merits of this case. What I am interested in, and focused on, was what Judge Cicconetti gave her by way of punishment.

I don’t know what law he was implementing in this case. I would simply call it the law of the jungle. This wise judge gave Gaston a choice: 30 days in jail or being sprayed in the face with pepper spray. Yes you have read it correctly.

So Gaston decided to opt for the pepper spray in the face. Before I tell you what happened next. Let’s just reflect on this for a moment. This is not justice. This is not rehabilitation. This is revenge. Pure and simple. I am sure there are some luddites who think that Gaston got what she deserved. Funny I thought courts of law were supposed to do exactly what the description suggests. Administer the law and dispense justice. What happened here is a charade. What happened next only goes to prove it.

Judge Cicconetti wasn’t done with Gaston. It would be pretty inhumane and pretty damning for a court to be sanctioning a defendant to be pepper sprayed as a form of punishment. So the judge substituted pepper spray for a non-harmful, water based substance. Or course he didn’t tell Gaston’s victim who sprayed it into Gaston’s face nor did he tell Gaston nor did he go on to tell her that the “punishment” would be videotaped. Does it mitigate what happened in any way? Not in my view.

But apparently this judge is well known for his eccentric ways of dispensing justice. For example, in another case where a woman pleaded guilty to theft by failing to pay a cab driver, she was given the option of 60 days jail or to walk the distance of her cab ride. She was given 48 hours to complete the 30 mile (48.6 kilometer) journey and ordered to pay $100 restitution. In the past, as part of the punishment, he ordered a drunk driver to view the bodies of car crash victims in the morgue. I wonder what the relatives of the deceased had to say about that. I wonder if they were even asked.

Judge Cicconetti, once ordered a group of teenagers to dress in green from head to toe after they were caught playing the game ding-dong-ditch. Apparently this game involves ringing the doorbell of a random house, splattering it with paint balls and then running away.

In my opinion, for what it’s worth, and using an Australian saying, Judge Cicconetti thinks like he’s a few sausages short of a bbq or got a few kangaroos loose in the top paddock. In other words, he is lacking in clarity of thought. Or maybe “kangaroo” should be the way to describe how he runs his courtroom. It probably sounds outrageous for me to say but I really do think Judges are trained to rise above petty notions of spite and revenge when it comes to deciding on an appropriate punishment. Yes, justice needs to be done for the sake of the victim but the law needs to also consider the notion of a proper and appropriate reflection of society, its values and acting like a measured and rational human being. Sorry, but doing unto others, what they would do, or have done to you, just doesn’t cut it as a concept of penal or judicial reform, in my view. That’s my rant for the day.

American Justice On Trial

The American justice system has taken a hammering in the past 24 hours. And so it should.

First we had the case of a man freed from jail after 39 years who was wrongly convicted of murder.

What’s worse his original sentence was to receive the death penalty. But lucky for him, Ohio, the state, where it happened, abolished the death penalty three years after he was convicted.

So even though he spent all of that time in prison, he was able to walk free and breathe fresh air in the outside world again. If the State had not changed the law he would be dead right now. And the system would have killed an innocent man.

And now we have the case of a woman in California freed from prison after 17 years because she was wrongly convicted of murder. This is yet another example, of the justice system getting it terribly, terribly wrong.

Fifty-nine-year-old Susan Mellen was convicted of beating a homeless man to death. Now a court has found she was innocent.

An appeal judge ruled that Mellen received what he called poor legal representation from her trial lawyer.

Apparently her conviction rested on the testimony of a witness who claimed she heard Mellen confess to the crime. But that witness has now been described as an habitual liar.

WTF?

The appeal judge told Mellen that he “felt really bad about what had happened to her.”

So he should.

So should the entire Californian justice system. They should hang their heads in shame. They are entirely to blame for what happened.

Luckily for Susan Mellen, her case was taken up by an organisation called Innocence Matters, which seeks to exonerate the wrongly convicted.

Innocence Matters said in a statement that the detective, who arrested Mellen, was also responsible for a case in 1994 that resulted in two people later being exonerated.

Three gang members were linked to the crime that Mellen was convicted for. One of them took a lie-detector test and said Mellen wasn’t there when it happened.

There is probably not a lot to make of this revelation other than to say it is yet another point in Mellen’s favour.

The court made an interesting legal ruling when it freed Susan Mellen.

It decided that she was factually innocent in this case.

Factually innocent is a ruling made only in rare circumstances but it means Susan Mellen can claim US$100 a day, from the State of California, for every day that she spent in prison.

After 17 years it adds up to a tidy sum, more than $600,000 which, I am sure, will be a huge help to Susan Mellen as she faces life on the outside.

Mellen said she cried every night in prison but never lost faith that she would be reunited with her three now-grown up children.

Her youngest were aged seven and nine when she was arrested. They have a lot of catching up to do.

Mellen scrawled the word “freedom” on the bottom of her shoes because she never gave up hope she would be free one day.

Try as I might, I can find nothing redeeming about the fact that it took 17 years for justice to finally be done for Suan Mellen.

Unfortunately, the system can’t give her back the very thing that she is most entitled to.

The life she lost.