David Milgaard was wrongly convicted by the Canadian justice system and spent 23 years in jail before finally being exonerated by DNA evidence. Regrettably he passed away a few weeks ago.
Before he died Milgaard was also the inspiration for a 2008 recommendation in a report of the public inquiry into his conviction, which suggested that the federal government establish an independent review commission to examine claims of wrongful conviction. Since that time Milgaard and his lawyer, James Lockyer, met with Canada’s Justice Minister, David Lametti to pursue the forming of the independent commission. Nothing has been resolved.
In the meantime a new movie, “Marlene”, has been shown in selected markets following the exploits of the wife of wrongfully-convicted Steven Truscott. Much like Milgaard’s mother, Marlene Truscott worked tirelessly to get her husband’s release. Events like these demonstrate how no official agency seems the least bit interested in making sure that wrongful convictions are over-turned. Instead, it is up to individual family members to make such changes happen. And if you do not have a dedicated family member to fight for you, you’re out of luck.
Indifference to the plight of others and an egotistical motivation toward self-interest can be the negative effects of our society’s focus on individualism and demands for the freedom to do as we please. When we choose to turn a blind eye towards societal ills those ills will eventually reach us, although often in an indirect way. Nowhere is that more important than in the functioning of our justice system.
Many understand that we cannot escape our responsibilities. It was Bob Dylan who reminded us in one of his songs that everyone has to serve somebody. One of our responsibilities is to ensure that our justice system is based on justice.
When we look to the idol of the blindfolded lady holding the scales of justice it is there to remind us that the facts of each case must be weighed independent of any bias. Thus Lady Justice must be blind to the race, wealth, gender, etc, of those being judged. Lady Justice must also be blind to her own ambitions, what benefits she may incur, or what penalties may flow from her righteous path. However we should not allow her to be blind to the facts and truths presented while submitting a preordained verdict. Lady Justice cannot be a robot that follows the programming instructions of a computer chip.
In our indifference to the essential need for transparency we are complicate in her wrongful deeds. When we know that we are not being provided with the necessary transparency that is the cornerstone of assurance that the players in the our justice system are playing by ethical standards, we have a responsibility to correct that wrong.
Recently we have seen the life of a black man being slowly snuffed out by the knee of an officer in a police uniform. While this occurred in the U.S. we have a responsibility to take action to ensure that it does not happen in Canada. It is our duty to be active and aware of what is happening around us.
We see the potential of being manipulated by many entities, whether it is the government, police, news media, the internet, society media, or even our friends and relatives, through the bombardment of repetitive messages causing us to lose the centre of our moral and logical compass. We must recognize our responsibility to detect the influence of persuasion and propaganda. It is also our duty to correctly evaluate whether we are being manipulated to believe in illogical conspiracy theories through the cultism that is growing in isolated internet chat groups. Seeing clearly in a sandstorm is not easy but a reasoned individual will pause to let the storm pass before selecting the proper direction of travel.