The clash of justice, Kartel and Kern

Thursday, March 27, 2014    

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IF the law, which is oftentimes said to be an ass, that is, it is immersed in the same aura of wisdom as that found in the bray of a donkey, then certainly its first cousin, justice must be comedy hour at an after-dinner uptown joint.

I say this in respect of the Kern Spencer trial where it took the nation over five years to determine that what was thought to be one of the most serious charges alleging corruption against a government minister was after all, really nothing at all.

On Monday, the court ruled on the submissions of the defence lawyers, that there was no case to answer. It didn't take five weeks or five months, which, had the law been the think-talk of the people, would have made sense, even if we had violently disagreed with the finding, but over five years.

One cannot help but feel that those among us who wanted to see the young politician made an example of, and those who always were sure he was as clean as a whistle have been given a raw deal in that those were five wasted years. What really was the purpose of those five years?

Were they five years of squandered time to those whose hopes for a conviction have been dashed, or five years of terribly trying times for those who suffered during the time they were supporting Spencer's innocence? Spencer, whom I have never met, must have aged 10 years in the last five.

If we accept that the infernal sins of Vybz Kartel were fought against, met and conquered by the might of the State and its right to place him in a cage for the rest of his viable adult life, so too must we accept that Kern Spencer, whom we may not have liked, must be given that right to escape any time in a State-sponsored cage.

The courts have spoken and justice, which was never meant to exist on the same plane as simple logic, has made its declaration.

To the man at street level, the law and that which spills from the halls of justice are like the draw of a lottery. The little man only dreams of a win. To the over-educated and those trying hard to touch the rarefied air of intelligence, justice is like a nebula, the result from afar, of a cosmic explosion. Here, there is light, over there is darkness, and at some point everything may collapse onto itself and become a black hole of nothingness.

Simple equations, like truth plus strong belief in it equal justice, are usually made irrelevant by compound formulae which may at times introduce functions that our quaint and unsophisticated minds will never quite comprehend. It could be that to apply common sense to the process of accusation and the respective strengths of the evidence placed forward by defence and prosecution during courtroom trials is to live in the hazardous world of the fool.

While I cannot comment on what I may have thought were hard facts in favour of or against the innocence of Spencer, what I have known since 1993 — when I began writing newspaper columns -- is that, many times, much that is publicly bandied about is usually caught up in mirages and, in many instances, good guys are buried. The same holds true especially for the flip side of the coin, where transgressors can, through long and complex processes, be made into finely burnished heroes.

Justice spins on such a wide wheel of perception that its stock definition of righting wrongs means little to the ordinary Jamaican. Let us examine some wild possibilities.

Justice is like introducing advanced mathematics to a junkie in New Kingston, when what he really wants is something to fill his crack pipe. Justice is as valid and scientifically sound as praying the gay away. Justice occupies the same realm as Satan convincing the PNP that there is redemption in the JLP, while preaching to the JLP that salvation is ringing out loud in the PNP.

Justice is like a college professor falling in love with a confirmed prostitute, marrying her, and not expecting that the psychiatric couch will be his next best friend, right through his next three divorces over the next 20 years. As much as justice is expecting Usain Bolt to win his next race, it also exists on the other side where we are likely to see Bolt losing a race in the next prep school champs against 10-year-old schoolgirls.

Justice is like a 13-year-old girl being cornered and telling her mother, "Mommy, I am only a little bit pregnant". Justice is also as stupid as the mother buying into the fraction of a pregnancy.

Justice is investing in the hope that explosive batsman Chris Gayle will learn to use his feet while batting. Justice is little more than the fool's wish that the West Indies will retain the World T20 trophy in 2014.

As the Kartel case began to wind down, it was my belief that sufficient doubt had been planted in the minds of the jurors, via police incompetence, and that he would have escaped conviction on those considerations. I was wrong.

In the Kern Spencer trial, I always believed, as it dragged on, that he would have been freed of the charges and those reasons centred on the very same ones that reverberated among the people at street level. I was right.

In both cases high-powered teams of lawyers were employed, but only in one of the cases should we expect that the good wine will be had, or more than one case of the fine stuff will be broken out. Ah, it can be a good life for some, even in the worst of times for many.

The celebration of the prosecution over the Kartel decision must now be tempered by what, in the Kern Spencer decision, amounts to the best use of time for the defence and the worst use of it for those in the DPP's office. To us, mere mortals, time is the ultimate dimension and cannot really be wasted — only used and abused.

In a funny book I read over 30 years ago, there was a story about a Rastafarian brought before the court for theft of goods. In the past, the dread had stolen and not been caught, and at other times he was convicted for things he had absolutely no knowledge of. Over time the man simply accepted that the world and the machinery of justice were way over his head and much too difficult for him to figure out.

On that day in court the judge asked him, "Guilty or not guilty?"

The dread looked up at the judge and said to him, "Your honour, is dat I come here fi find out".

To many of us who are not privy to the inner workings of that imagined inner sanctum, the perception of justice at street level is that it is nothing more than a public throw of special dice from a very private place.





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