Inspection- Of Rod Blagojevich, Stephanie Miller and the American Injustice System
Next week’s Inspection floats into your digital door quite a bit early because the time to comment is now…
My wife knows when I start yelling at the TV and the radio that I’m probably about to write another edition of Inspection. Most recently the subject of my anger was a comment made by the host on The Stephanie Miller Show. Don’t get me wrong, I find Steph fun and great light fare’, politically. OK, maybe too many fart and sex jokes for my more adult taste, but she’s no Howard Stern. And that a compliment from a guy who used to do a Howard Stern-ish show before there was a Howard Stern Show.
Yes, Howard was on the radio about the same time I was on radio in college, but I was the one doing the sex jokes, the pretend on air sex acts. Howard was playing music, and trying to play the game: straight DJ. Howard hadn’t even met his infamous radio programmer nemesis: Pig Vomit, yet. I already had mine: the programmer at WRMT who tried to shut me down several times for sex jokes and simulated sounds, plus once after it sounded like I had record scratched my way out of an Alice Cooper record. Instead I had taken a Todd Rundgren album with a recorded record scratch on it and had started it up from a dead stop on air right at the same time I cut off the feed on the Cooper vinyl.
“Carman! What are you… Oh, it was on record…”
He wasn’t a happy programmer at all as he grumped back out the door.
But I grew tired of the more out there sex-humor, probably by doing it so much I just grew out of it… for the most part. But I do wonder, since we were on college radio about the same time, if he stole my act. We were that much alike.
Ya owe me, Howard. Just unsequential numbers this time, and no funny business with substituting a woopie cushion under the 20s. I heard what you did during that last payment to Lindsay Lohan.
Cheesy attempts at yet another Lindsay joke aside, take this as a very Gouda compliment, Steph. Lightly skimming across the pool of radio perversion in an absurd fashion is so much more palatable, in my opinion, than Stern and what I used to do. And you have God himself working for you too, at least the voice God: Jim Ward. Anyone who does voices so well and shares a last name with my cartoon deity: Jay Ward, is worthy of worship.
Anyway, Steph was discussing the Rod Blagojevich verdict, saying his statement to the judge during sentencing proved he did all he was accused of doing and all his denials before were, essentially, lies.
Tut, tut, tut, Ms. Miller. You’re a smart lady. You should know better than that…
What exactly was Mr. Blagojevich, guilty as all hell… or not… supposed to do at that point? Scratch that. What would an actual innocent sane man or woman do at that moment? The trial is over: you’ve been found guilty. What exactly is going to happen if you say, “Your Honor I can’t show remorse for something I didn’t do?”
What would happen after that? The judge would be doubly sure to take pity and show leniency, right? Steph, you’re smarter than that. Most judges would hit the defendant with the max.
None of this excuses anything Rod Blagojevich said or did. But frankly I think even the most innocent person in the world would know better than to be defiant at that point in the proceedings.
And this is one of the many things wrong with our justice system, and there’s a hell of a lot wrong with that. I think we all know that system has been veering towards guilty by accusation for a long time. Innocent until proven guilty is a joke, a canard, a myth. It shouldn’t be, but it is.
Witnesses… if you’ve ever looked at the various studies on witnesses, they are notoriously bad at describing what actually happened. We’re not as good observers as we think. I remember in high school an African American in our history class raised hell in the first few minutes and another teacher who “happened to be passing by” came in and escorted him out. It was all a set up. Our teacher had each of us describe exactly what they saw. The more Conservative classmates saw the student punching, kicking and pushing things off of desks on the way out. The leftward leaning students saw the teacher roughly pick the student up, slam him against a blackboard, and then drag him out. The rest of us saw some variation of either: but nobody got it right.
But we still rely a hell of a lot on witnesses. In fact we often rely on witnesses that have every reason to lie: criminals who know they will get a break if they back up one side of the case or the other.
About 11 years ago I was in the wrong place, at the wrong time. I played my cards right: not handcuffed, never been arrested. But I almost wound up being dragged down the conveyor belt of justice though I was completely innocent. And never guess what? I bought my way out. That’s right. All the District Attorney and my lawyer were interested in was how many palms I could grease. And… you’re not going to believe this… if I could give a supposed victim a chrome bumper to replace his perfectly good black one I had never touched.
I even asked my own lawyer if anyone was actually interested in innocence or guilt in this case. She scoffed at the very concept.
“We don’t do things that way any more.”
I guarantee there are those clueless readers right now who are saying to themselves, “Well, if you were accused you must have done something.”
See what I mean about “guilt by accusation?”
Since then I have been watching, and reading, about our system of justice; a system that’s less a “system” than something resembles a Terminator in a very bad Terminator movie. The system will grind you down until it gets what it wants. The lucky few have the resources to escape and, unfortunately, that often has absolutely nothing to do with innocent of guilt.
I hate get so heavy on a funny, light hearted, talk show host. You can be really hilarious, Steph. Just don’t assume things so easily: especially when people are offered a Catch-22. During the time of sentencing the rational convict has two choices: say he’s sorry, or say he’s sorry, unless he wants to go to jail for a hell of a lot longer.
We’d all be better off, under the system we have no, if we’d just drop that theatric moment and get on with the legal beating: justified or not. For whatever the convict says now is useless, and by design: meaningless. Confess his crimes he might get less. Proclaim his innocence again and he will surely get more.
But it’s the system we have.
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
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