Due to my great research last week on the local murder case, my boss assigned me to 3 different cases this month; the first sent me to a US district court in Virginia. Out of all the judicial interns at the office, my boss liked me the best, so I got the best cases.
When I arrived at the district court the next day in the early morning and walked into the courtroom, I found everyone in suits, and journalists took up at least half the room. I was so glad that I had a reserved seat. A couple of minutes after I sat down, the prosecution, and defense teams walked in, the judge a few minutes after, the trial then began.
The trial was an extensive one, as it involved tax and bank fraud, as well as failing to file a foreign bank account report. As both the prosecution and defense brought up their own witnesses and evidences for the case throughout the week, it looked as if the defendant was definitely going to be in jail for a long time. After the jury found him guilty, the sentencing was then announced the next day.
"Now, Mr. Manafort, let me reiterate the fact that you have committed very serious crimes, and you must lives with the consequences of them. However, I think that the sentencing guidelines calling for 19.5 to 24 years in jail are simply too much. Furthermore, since you otherwise have no criminal history, and have lived a blameless life" the judge said, "I sentence you to 47 months in jail". The defendant had no expression on his face, and was led out of the courtroom. I found myself to be the only one in the courtroom about 20 minutes later as I was finishing writing my notes on the week-long trial.
"Blameless life, blameless life, what does that mean?" I said to myself over and over again. This seemed mysterious to me, but I continued and finished writing my notes. I then got up and left the courtroom.
The next week, I was then sent to a state court for a rape case. The details were that the defendant had allegedly raped the female victim while she was unconscious, and therefore could not give consent. When listening to the witnesses reflect on that fateful night with the rest of the courtroom, it disturbed me how they described the defendant being on top of her on the path, while she looked unconscious. The defense in return argued that the boy was influenced by alcohol, and the "party culture" on the college campus. They even went so far as to stress that Brock was a great swimmer, and was a good person. "Well, if he was a good person, he wouldn't have been penetrating her with a material object while she was unconscious. Good people don't do that stuff" I said to myself. I then looked at the judge who was looking at the defendant; it looked as if he felt sorry for him. I was shocked when the the jury found the defendant, Mr. Turner, guilty, but the sentencing wasn't very surprising.
As the judge read the sentence, he looked at the adult defendant in pity. "Before I announce the sentencing of this young man, I would first like to take into account his lack of remorse for the attack, and I also took into consideration the prosecution's petition for 6 years in prison. However, because of how a large jail sentence like this will have a severe impact, and damaging consequences to his life, I hereby decree that he will serve 6 months in jail".
The crowd gasped as they heard the judge announce this; I had stopped taking notes.
"Furthermore, since Mr. Turner has already served 3 months in jail, he will only serve another 3 months. Thank you"
The audience roared at this in disbelief, and began to boo. The defendant was then escorted to another side of the room followed by guards, the judge packed up his things and left in a rush.
I again sat in the room alone, and pondered on what the judge had said. "Why did it seem that the judge cared more about the defendant than the victim? Sure, the longer sentence would have affected his life, but what about the rape victim's? Wasn't her life already severely affected by his actions?" I thought to myself. It also seemed as if the judge looked upon the defendant as a child, but I didn't write this down. I then made my long commute home.
My last case for the month that I worked was also at a state court, which involved a conflict in drug policy. To further elaborate, Mr. Beadle bought 2.8lbs of marijuana in Oregon, and at the time was driving through Mississippi when he was pulled over. Since Mississippi has a strict "No Marijuana" policy, Mr. Beadle was arrested and charged with drug trafficking, and not drug possession alone. However, what was not mentioned was the local county's discriminatory targeting of African Americans while on the road, as could be seen in their numbers of arrests and charges. Unfortunately, the jury announced that Mr. Beadle was guilty, and I attended the sentencing the next day.
"Now, I would first like to announce that I have taken into consideration Mr. Beadle's mother testimony, where she stated that the marijuana was used as part of a Jamaican custom. However, the law is the law. Therefore, Mr. Beadle, I sentence you to 8 years in jail" the judge decreed.
The audience was disappointed by the result of this, but was not surprised. What could one do in a state where African Americans were at least two times more charged with drug charges compared to Whites. For the last time that month, I sat in the courtroom alone after everyone left, and evaluated the past three cases.
"How could Turner, and Manafort, who both harmed people in violence and economics (tax evasion) receive less harsh sentences than Mr. Beadle, who he and the marijuana had harmed no one?" I pondered over this question for several minutes, then remembered the treatment of the defendants by the judges.
While the judges in both the Manafort and Turner cases both were lenient on them, citing that both had a lack of criminal history, or the consequences were too harsh, the judge for Beadle said none of this. And in spite of knowing the reasoning behind Beadle's possession of the drug, there was no leniency given.
Why were the White men let off when the Black man was not? I scribbled this several times in my notebook, as I couldn't figure out the reason, until I did.
Society (as reflected in the judges) has viewed many young White men as boys, especially with the phrase "boys will be boys". But where is this excuse for male minorities, especially the young? Why is it that one hears more about a young Black man being shot than a White? Is it only because of the situations Police are in, or are they simply more lenient with young White males compared to Black. Why are young male minorities are expected to act as men (without any fault and leniency), while young White men are allowed to stay young, and make mistakes?
I had to stop myself from thinking, as the lights to the courtroom began to shut off slowly.
Despite feeling the pain in my knees, and the soreness in my arms, I got up from my chair, walked slowly to the main entrance door, opened it, and walked outside.
I was so focused on moving forward that I didn't hear the entrance door close behind me.