This is the happy fifth anniversary of the return to her parents of Elizabeth Smart, remember her? The little girl who was abducted from her own bed as her baby sister watched a man crawl through the window and steal her away into the night, the brave girl who withstood all manner of insult to her person at the hands of this man and his woman, she stayed alive, learning at too young an age how to survive in the face of horror. Today she's a 20-year old college student and blessedly, a very well-adjusted, secure young woman. And her younger sister, Mary, who saw it all? She had to somehow live through those nine months while her sister was missing, not knowing what happened to her and indeed, in the quiet hours before dawn..."was it my fault?" For she did wonder at the tender age of nine if she could've stopped that man from stealing her big sister. Imagine living with such a thought, at any age! But she doesn't, she hasn't, she too, has come out of all this a surviving beacon of smiling light. If only that were all that mattered....
I remember this story out of Utah and kept close tabs on what I thought would be the upcoming trial of the abductors. To this day, they have yet to stand before their peers and be judged for their acts. Elizabeth and her sister know that someday they'll be required to appear in the media circus once again, take the stand in open court and testify to what they know. Slow-going is the justice for Elizabeth Smart - but her life is full and she smiles on. I have another problem, and it may certainly create one when I tap it out:
Is not justice delayed justice denied? Don't we all still believe that? Or is it only for criminals whose deeds don't hit us in the gut, as this crime did. No one is concerned that the accuseds' attorneys have used the psychiatric avenues of law to postpone their clients' trial lo these five years now, and they're doing it simply to let the fires of rage die down while building a solid case for insanity. This will make for a more even-tempered jury, and so it should be but I can't help wondering, as a paralegal myself, if I commited a crime and was caught I'd expect to be tried swiftly and fairly. The right to a speedy trial is ours by virtue of law and though they be scoundrels, this has been denied to the abductors of Elizabeth Smart. No one cares, especially the accused. This is to their benefit. As long as their mental accuity is being questioned, they cannot stand trial. Who knows how long this protracted situation will continue. Why care?
It's not right. Not for anyone involved, and not for you or me. When you sit on a jury you're asked to weigh evidence and make an informed, objective decision. But if you're looking at decades-old evidence, listening to testimony about an incident which, like any, dulls with time, the immediacy of the process is lost.
I understand that a mentally unfit person cannot be forced to stand trial, no matter the crime. It's the abuse of this fail-safeguard in our justice system which gauls and disturbs me. Clinicians and specialists paid to submit ongoing progress reports on the accused, on behalf of same and at the behest of their attorneys, will by nature be biased in their favor. Where is the balancing act of the prosecution?
A defense attorney is not there to defend you. The presumption of innocence is yours, that's the law. So you have no need to defend yourself. Your defense attorney is there to force the prosecution to do their job and prove their case. A good example of this not being done is the OJ Simpson trial, where the prosecution failed miserably. When Elizabeth's abductors eventually go to trial, if they ever do, they'll have that same presumption of innocence and the State will be forced to prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. And that's where the problem of delayed justice comes in - I've no doubt they will plead not guilt by reason of insanity. That seems to be the focus of their direction these five years, amassing psychological protocols supporting this premise. And the longer these persons remain in the limbo of "unfit to stand trial" the better their chances of circumventing due process.
But hey - it's a sunny day and just look at Elizabeth Smart today just look at this girl. She's living in the secure, loving embrace of her family and community, a survivor, not looking back, fully focused on her future.
Smile on, Elizabeth, and God bless you.