Saturday, January 26, 2013

Florence Cassez, Freed

Ms. Florence Cassez, the French girl accused, incarcerated, found guilty, and sentenced to 60 years in prison in Mexico for kidnapping, was freed on Wednesday. Her appeal to the Supreme Court resulted in a three-to-two vote in favor of setting her free. The Supreme Court ruled Cassez's rights had been violated, due process had not been observed, and chére Florence is entitled to a new trial.

And Mexico has gone batshit over this. All over Facebook I see posts to the effect of "Mexican justice makes me sick," or "F*cking murderess, rot in hell," or "Hero welcome in France for a murdering kidnapper--WTF???"

This--this--is the problem with Mexican justice. Perhaps with justice everywhere. In fact, perhaps this is the problem with humankind, period. These people on FB--and elsewhere, I'm sure--want blood. Sure, I agree a kidnapper / murderer is the lowest dung-beetle scum on the planet. I don't agree with the death penalty (subject of another post, perhaps), but seeing as that's not available in Mexico, I agree with a sixty-year sentence for someone found guilty of either or both of these crimes.

Key word: found guilty. Meaning through due process.

Which wasn't the case here.

I've blogged about Ms. Cassez before, if you're interested in the short version of the whys and wherefores of her situation. Suffice it to say here, both her arrest (staged for TV cameras after she was held, without processing and without benefit of counsel and/or consular advice, for over twelve hours) and her trial (whence two "key" witnesses drastically changed their original testimony in order to implicate Ms. Cassez) were tainted.

Guilty or not--and at this point my very point is that no one knows whether she is or isn't--doesn't she deserve a proper judicial procedure?

Don't we all?

And isn't it a huge step forward in Mexican proceedings that, first, Ms. Cassez's appeal actually made it to the Supreme Court, and second, that said appeal was judged to merit a ruling in its favor--on the basis of setting a precedent in favor of human rights?

So why are so many Mexicans so freakin' angry about this? Do we know--beyond the shadow of a doubt--that Ms. Cassez was, in fact, the leader of the Zodiaco kidnapping gang? Beyond those two witnesses, whose testimony is more than suspect, there's no evidence to support that. So why the vitriol?

Here's the thing: in any justice system, there's room for error. Do criminals fall between the cracks? Yes. Do the guilty get away with heinous crimes? Yes. But what then is the alternative? Do away with due process? Incarcerate--lash and quarter, lynch and hang--based on public opinion? On circumstantial "evidence", on suspect testimony? Why do I keep thinking of Minority Report?

What if this was your daughter, your mother? Accused of a crime she did not commit? Wouldn't you clamor for "true" justice then? For due process? Wouldn't you be outraged at police overstepping their bounds, at the public acting like some sort of Stalin-led pogrom mob?

Justice requires due process. Justice is not in the eye of the beholder.

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