Since the dawn of Western Civilization, Justice has often been depicted as a woman, wearing a blindfold. This is done in order to state that justice is–or at least should be–dispensed objectively, without fear or favor, regardless of the identity, power, or weakness of the individuals brought before the bar.
Blacks especially, and the poor in the United States live under no such delusion. In America, Black people are painfully aware that the criminal “justice” system means “Just Us.”
Justice is also often depicted with a set of weighing scales suspended from her left hand. With them she purportedly measures the strengths of a case’s support and opposition. Over the last several years, there have been more than 200 innocent men exonerated by science, through practically infallible DNA evidence. Many of those freed were on death row. Some came literally within hours of their scheduled executions for crimes they did not commit. Hundreds–including well known political prisoners Mumia Abu Jamal and Imam Jamil El Amin (formerly H. Rap Brown)–remain incarcerated at this hour despite ample evidence of prosecutorial bias which resulted in coerced testimony from witnesses, many of whom have recanted their false testimony.
So much for “blind justice” honestly weighing the facts in the cases of Black political activists who have been thorns in the side of White America’s neglect and denial of the needs and aspirations of their disenfranchised people.
Lady Justice is also often seen carrying a double-edged sword in her right hand, symbolizing the power of Reason and Justice, which may be wielded either for or against any party. We know all too well, that in America from cops on the street who routinely practice racial profiling, all the way to the Supreme Court in its most recent anti-Black decisions, Lady Justice often makes a wide, easy to travel path for the wealthy and privileged, while making a constricted, limited, strait path for the rest of us.
Enter I. Lewis Libby, a prominent former trial lawyer, turned Chief of Staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, and Special Assistant to President George W. Bush, into the criminal justice system. Mr. Libby was convicted of four felony counts, including lying to federal investigators and perjury, in a case involving one of the most critical decisions in this country’s 21st Century history: Its deliberations over whether or not to go to war in Iraq.
Mr. Libby, whose well-heeled friends in high places raised millions of dollars so that he could have the best legal defense money could buy, was nonetheless found guilty of covering up a scheme to discredit former Ambassador Joe Wilson. Mr. Wilson openly challenged one of the President’s bedrock claims justifying the war of aggression against Iraq. Rather than contend with him on the merits of his arguments that former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had never sought to acquire uranium from the African nation Niger, Bush administration officials–possibly on the orders of Mr. Cheney–instead sought to discredit him personally, by revealing his wife’s identity to the press as a secret CIA operative.
Both the law and the evidence, weighed in the scales in the courtroom of Judge Reggie Walton by a jury of Mr. Libby’s peers, found him guilty as charged. The judge sentenced him sternly, in proportion to the gravity of his crime-–more than 3,500 U.S. military personnel, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died, because of America’s unnecessary war–and in accord with federal sentencing guidelines. Mr. Libby was ordered to serve 30 months in prison and to pay a $250,000 fine. The judge refused his request to remain free on bond, while he appealed his conviction, and a panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the judge’s order. Mr. Libby was scheduled to report for imprisonment this summer.
No sooner than the appeals court ruled, Mr. Libby drew a cashier’s check from a bank near his home for the $250,000 fine, and his friends in high places kicked in another bonus, which ordinary citizens can never expect: The President, well within his executive powers, commuted his jail time, complaining that the amount of time he was to serve was excessive.
Pres. Bush did not quarrel with the jury’s findings of guilt. Nor did he wait until Mr. Libby had served what Pres. Bush considered a more appropriate amount of time in jail. No, he commuted the jail time, almost before the ink was dry on the appeals court ruling that Mr. Libby could not remain free on bond during his appeal of his conviction.
So much for the symbol of the blindfolded woman’s two-edged sword of “reason and justice” meted out objectively, without fear or favor, regardless of the identity, power, or weakness of the individuals brought before the bar.
“The President’s actions in the case of Scooter Libby remind us that race, power and privilege still matters in terms of who gets opportunities and who gets jailed in the criminal justice system. It is another example of a duplicitous system,” said Professor Charles Ogletree of the Harvard University School of Law.
Pres. Bush’s action may have made him “an accessory to the obstruction of justice” and it has removed “all incentive for Mr. Libby to address directly and truthfully the whole question of the role of the president and vice president,” according to Mr. Wilson.
“This was an act of betrayal of the national security of the country. It was a very serious crime, and Americans know the difference between right and wrong,” Mr. Wilson said.
Ironically, Pres. Bush may not be finished making it easy for his criminal friends. “As to the future, I rule nothing in or nothing out.” Pres. Bush told reporters when asked if he might yet grant Mr. Libby a pardon of innocence, wiping out the conviction altogether.
Black and poor people have known for some time (just look at the population of more than 2 million people in U.S. jails and prisons, more than anywhere in the industrialized world, except Russia, where Blacks make up 60 percent of the prison population, while amounting to only 20 percent of the total population) that jail time means “Just Us” and has very little to do with “Justice.”
The action by Pres. Bush in the case of Mr. Libby reveals again that Lady Justice is indeed blind in America. She is blind to the pleas of the Black and the poor.