Judge Rosemarie Aquilina Demonstrates how Justice in the USA has Lost it’s Way
If it is true that we typically get what we deserve, Larry Nassar is deserving of punishment. Those who followed the trial of the once vaunted Olympic doctor, and particularly the victim statements, might also agree that there no significant mitigation that should save him from the harshest of punishments available. I am horrified by the facts of the case, feel for the victims, and tear my hair out at the conduct of Judge Aquilina who missed an opportunity to behave with measured dignity, separating the hysteria and Snapchat mentality of popular life from the business and values of the administration of justice.
Today, during sentencing she said several things that are so distant from any concept of justice in a western democracy that everyone in America should tremble in case this impoverished example is representative of the whole.
“Our constitution does not allow for cruel and unusual punishment,” she lamented. “If it did, I have to say, I might allow what he did to all of these beautiful souls…. I would allow someone, or many people, to do to him what he did to others.” Can a judge of her standing not see what is wrong with this, or what is wrong with her saying it? She went on to say Nassar was “ill” and “delusional” complaining that tax dollars might be spent on his mental health even if he does “whither away” in prison as it is “no place for a human being to live.” Can Judge Aquilina not understand what she is saying about the human beings incarcerated in American prisons and the implications of placing people there. Does she really hope to increase the permission offered to prison administrators to tolerate even greater abuse of human rights than prisoners commonly endure? Has she any constructive thoughts about the implications of mental health in the lives of the imprisoned? Can it be true that they only put those who are not human into American prisons? Is Judge Aquilini an arbitrator of who are human and those who can be treated as something other than that?
I get the outrage, I am not a bleeding heart, but I wish Judge Aquiline had thought more carefully about her comments. Would it not have been helpful to the victims, and to society generally, to acknowledge as being understandable, the temptation for victims and others of vengeful thinking, but identify the divisions and dangers this causes. She might have reinforced the purpose of the law, courts and due process at a time when many feel insecure and vulnerable to histrionic and capricious public administration. She could have celebrated the bravery of the young women coming forward in this case and welcomed them into a judicial process as valued contributors, and left it at that. Instead, she offered a cynical emotional salvo of contempt for Nassar, better suited to a FaceBook popularity contest than the administration of justice. Who was her audience for these remarks? It seemed it was the victims that brought strength and dignity to these circumstances. Shame on this judge for spoiling this moment for the court whose authority she wields, and for adding to the confusion of what criminal justice is for. What did America do to deserve that?