A Parody of Justice

THE MAIL

To the Editors of the Crimson:

No one could complain of your neglecting the Ezera larceny case: on April 4 alone, you gave it 106 lines of news and 225 lines of editorial and on April you returned to the charge. Both news and editorial were written by the reporter-a curious procedure and one that involved much rehashing of the material. I presume that the breathless quality of Ms. Russell's prose--with its "parody" of justice, its hushed courtroom and bursts of applause and rounds of chuckles, its tear-stained mother and then the man "wearing a grieved face"--can be attributed to haste and high feeling. Ms. Russell's and Mr. Ezera's emotions are understandalbe, but on may perhaps be pardoned for finding them singularly misdirected.

Ms. Russell describes the trial as a parody "meant for the stage," a spectacle of "ignorance." And Mr. Ezera tells us that the "trial represented a stripping of students from the cocoon of middle-class isolation" (sic) and "a rude awakening to the blatant racism inherent in the American judicial system." "During the trial," he says, "I felt as though someone were out there to get me."

But how, in Dr. Johnson's phrase, is all this to the purpose?

To set the scene for the parody of justice, your reporter serves up two preliminary cases involving Blacks. (To what anti-racist motives, incidentally, should one ascribe the constant spelling of "Blacks" with a majuscule and "whites" with a miniscule?) In the first case, Judge Elam, with what appears to be scrupulous impartiality, dismissed the charges as unproven and declared the accused innocent. The second case concerned the man who wore the grieved face, but Ms. Russell gives us no clue as to its meaning, unless she wishes us to infer that grief should bestow immunity from due process.

All courts have their comic aspects (except for the defendants) but both the sequence and the outcome of Mr. Ezera's trial appear to provide the very antithesis of a parody. Of two things choose one: either Mr. Ezera lied (which seemed doubtful) when he denied involvement with the theft; or the plaintiff McGaw made a serious mistake when she originally identified the defendent. The arresting officer was formal as to Ms. McGaw's certitude about Mr. Ezera: why doubt his word any more than Mr. Ezera's? But in the "courtroom parody" the error was corrected. The plaintiff, for motives unspecified (awe? fear? doubt?), withdrew her identification. Judge Grabau, although white, displayed the same rigor as Judge Elam: he summoned counsel to the bench, pronounced Mr. Ezera innocent, and thereby expunged the arrest from his record. Your reporter describes this as "the end of the play" but the protagonist still insists that skin of a different color would have kept him out of court. Permit me to doubt it.

If defendent and reporter mean that Mr. Ezera's arrest was parody they may well be justified in attributing this error to racial motives. But to characterize the trial as a comedy that demonstrated the "blatant racism" of the American judiciary constitutes poor thanks to the magistracy that cleared the defendant's record. Ms. Russell would have had a more vivid story if Judge Grabau had shown less respect for the rules of evidence and had played the racist role which journalists assign to white magistrates in their allegories of American jurisprudence. But I wonder if Mr. Ezera would have shared the reporter's excitement. John Bovey '35