Criminal justice is often neither …

HoJay.jpg   When I was much younger, I would occasionally lament all the police blotter doings that had infiltrated the sports pages, but now that I am, uh, maturing rapidly, I don’t mind it as much, perhaps because I at least recognize the names.

   What also occurred to me was that lumping all the evildoers into one basket simply because they’ve run afoul of various laws and league prohibitions probably does a disservice to some.
This morning’s news included word that O.J. Simpson faces his day in court for the fracas in the Las Vegas hotel room. I’ve already read a lot of blather in cyberspace that he should be locked away for life, so naturally I’ll lean to a contrary view.

   O.J. Simpson should be sentenced for precisely the appropriate prison term for the hotel room nonsense and nothing else. Period. And my modest understanding of the criminal justice system – gleaned from video instruction from several generations of great barristers ranging from Perry Mason to Judge Judy – leaves me to think that nobody in the world would serve an 18-year sentence for what transpired in that hotel room.

   It’s not the fringe of cyber loonies saying that O.J. should be locked away for good; these are mainstream, big-name sports media outlets. And they openly champion the idea that Simpson deserves to go away for life precisely because of what happened in 1994. And they should know better.

   If we believe in our system of criminal justice – no snickering, please – we’ve got to insist that Simpson be sentenced without any acknowledgement of that other incident from 1994. Tall order, for sure, but the alternative – having folks salted away for alleged misdeeds that they have not been convicted of – should be anathema to all of us.

   Even if there is a merely a 1/100th of 1 percent chance of innocence – which sounds about right for the 1994 slaughter – it still has to be honored, being far superior to having judges arbitrarily adding years to a sentence for something unrelated to the actual charges.

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   The same morning news also told of an effort by the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) to get suspensions lifted so five of six players benched for violating the league’s anti-doping policy.

   I won’t bore you with all the details, but it essentially involves use of a dietary supplement in training camp that has a banned substance included in it, even though the banned substance isn’t listed on the the label.

   The decision is expected today, so that the players can play this weekend, assuming that the judge rules their way. I suppose it’s quite possible (maybe likely) that the judge will rule that the suspensions should stand because the rules about steroids, etc., are agreed to in collective bargaining.

   I don’t know about you, but I like my miscreants to be guilty of a bit of wrongful intent, and I don’t much care for the idea that the substance wasn’t listed on the label. I also don’t like it that the league apparently knew about the banned diuretic being in the dietary supplement and didn’t notify the players’ union.

   That’s enough reasonable doubt for me. I realize the inherent risk in blogging in this fashion. By the time most read this, a decision may well have been rendered. So be it. I’m trying to learn to embrace the immediacy of this medium.

   “Free the Minneapolis Six!”

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