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She fought the law, and the law won… for now

23 March 2012

Joanna van der Gracht de Rosado (“Writing From Merida“) has a much better, and more succinct overview of the Florence Cassez affair than I could write, so I’ll just cut and paste from Joanna:

Florence Cassez…is a French citizen who has been convicted of taking part in kidnappings in Mexico with the Zodiacs… She has denied involvement in any crime.

But three of the Zodiacs’ victims who were liberated at the time of Cassez’ arrest: a mother, her child and another child testified that she was one of their captors. She was convicted and sentenced to 60 years.

Since her arrest in 2005 she has repeatedly demanded that she be repatriated to France on the grounds that her civil rights were violated by the Mexican authorities. (PGR) This is true, the authorities did everything wrong.

As things stand now, Cassez’ 60 year sentence has been upheld by the Supreme Court, but a new panel of judges will rehear the evidence.

Obviously, it was a huge error for the PGR to re-stage the police raid which nabbed Cassez and her fellow deliquents for the benefit of a television news crew (and for the propaganda value it had for the “tough on crime” administration) , and it should have been questioned by the court, but I can’t see that it changes the fact that Cassez was identified as a kidnapper, and that evidence tied her to a very serious crime — one, I might add, that many feel merits a restoration of capital punishment.

What does seem serious to me — and makes this a more than Franco-Mexican issue — is that Cassez was denied consular assistance at the time of her arrest.  Mexico has been complaining  about lack of consular assistance for its own citizens arrested in the United States.  Despite international court rulings that held the United States at fault for such failure, the Federal government was unable (or unwilling) to stop executions of Mexicans denied consular assistance in Texas.

Joanna’s post (and the comments) are well worth reading.  She is, quite naturally, on the side of the victims… seeing justice is not being done in reviewing Cassez’ case.  I tend to agree that this is a slap in the face of people who were already traumatized by Cassez and her gang, but also realize that by accepting the need for review, Mexico is … in a roundabout way… seeking to preserve the moral high ground in demanding consular assistance for her own citizens abroad.

What makes this incident so maddening is that, unlike the Mexican cases in the U.S., where there was never a question of guilt, but only of adequate counsel (something consular assistance is supposed to assure, or at least make more likely), the French seem to suggest that Cassez is innocent, or that she deserves “special rights”… because… she’s “white”, or she’s a she, or because simply because she’s French, ergo not to be judged by mere Mexicans.

Are these political, racial or justice issues?  All of the above.  In a perverse way, this is the other side of the coin of the Treyvon Martin shooting in Florida.  Despite the rather pathetic attempts to portray the killer, George Zimmerman as “Latino”, and therefore not personally racist, there is no one can seriously claim that politically important killing doesn’t have racial overtones, and the incident wouldn’t have occurred (nor would it have been international news) had Zimmerman not been seen as a member of a specially privileged class*.

Much as I am fond of the quote I attribute (perhaps mistakenly) to the father of Hispanic legal thought, Moises Maimonidies, to the effect that it is better ten (or 99 or some other number) of guilty go free rather than one innocent suffer, perhaps I need to go with an authentic quote, from Guide to the Perplexed:

“You must accept the truth from whatever source it comes.”

The truth is that law cannot always provide justice.  The apparent legality of Zimmerman’s shooting a kid armed with a bag of candy and an iced team, is really no different than Cassez’ claims that she should not be held responsible because of procedural errors.  The truth, which we may not wish to accept, is that nowhere does the law NOT grant special rights to some and not others.  It is not justice, but — in both affirming the original sentence and in re-opening the case, the Supreme Court is at least trying to create as balanced a decision as imperfect human beings can.  imperfect humans.

* And note that, for purely legal reasons, I can’t do justice to Treyvon Martin and use the words one should use:  like “murder”, “crime”, “injustice”.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 23 March 2012 10:45 am

    “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”

    * Le Lys Rouge [The Red Lily] (1894), Jacques Anatole François Thibault, ne: Anatole France

    When you said , “The truth, which we may not wish to accept, is that nowhere does the law NOT grant special rights to some and not others.” that phrase immediately came to mind.

    The law attempts to create (we hope) equal standards of behavior, but the very condition of humanity reveals the inequality in even an apparently “just” law.

    I have been trying to find a way to express what I feel about the Trayvon Martin killing and the horrors perpetuated in Afghanistan by a very evil man. There is a common thread in all of this, including the convicted French kidnapper: the feeling of privilege, the sense of righteousness, the innate racism woven into the reality, the insanity that these crimes could possibly go unpunished.

    The law provides standards of behavior, but people must exercise those laws with a sense of justice. And we are all flawed. While I don’t necessarily believe that divine intervention is required or will occur, I do hope that Karma exercises her will with haste.

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