Judith Clark: on October 20th, 1981, a group of radicals tried to rob a Brinks truck of about $1.8 million in cash. Things went wrong and two Brinks' guards were shot and two police officers were killed trying to apprehend them.
Poor Judith Clark, the driver, was not smart enough to cop a deal. She was a true believer, and true believers do not compromise with the system. She went to trial. Her defense was that the system itself-- of justice, of government-- had no legitimacy, and therefore, did not have the authority to judge her.
She received 75 years as an accessory to murder.
The odd thing is that Judith Clark was just the driver. Almost everyone else who was involved, who carried and discharged firearms, is now out of jail. They cut deals. Not the driver. That is what passes for justice in our system. We don't weigh all the evidence, analyze the facts, acquire knowledge and information-- no, we cut deals.
But Judith Clark was not game. She refused to cut a deal and got 75 years. She had a 9 month old daughter on the day of the crime.
In an article in the New York Times on January 16, 2012, Tom Robbins interviewed some of the family members of the dead police officers. They feel that 75 years is not enough. They wish she could have been killed. Which is exactly the kind of feelings they accuse her of having, and which they believe make her a very, very bad person. To wish someone dead.
I don't know how they feel about her accomplices, who escaped with lighter sentences and are now free to do whatever they please. I would guess they would want them dead too.
The illusion we all cling to-- or don't-- is that she deserves it and they do not. I believe that what the families of the victims believe has more to do with language and culture and habit and the feedback loop of victimization and the culture of violent retribution, and has nothing to do with any kind of "justice", of deserving, in any form whatsoever. I believe that wishing someone dead because they murdered your loved one means that you are not that far apart. Why did they kill? Because they wanted something and they thought killing another human being would get it for them. Why do you want them dead? Because it will bring your loved one back to life? Will it bring your loved one back to life? Will it give life to the dead? Will it keep someone else from dying? What do you really want when you want someone dead?
You can lock someone up for 75 years if all you want is to prevent someone else from suffering what you have suffered. But if you want someone else to suffer what you have suffered, then you want them to lose a loved one. You want them to feel what you felt.
You want them dead, then, Because then you think you will feel better. We have an array of euphemisms: closure. Justice. Whatever. All it cost for you to feel better is to kill someone. Failing that, yes, let's just lock them up forever.