I turned on the radio while I was driving to the gym last week and felt as though I'd entered the pages of a Kafka novel. Three stories broadcast during my drive made justice seem like a nonsensical concept.
First was the execution of Zheng Xiaoyu, the former head of China's Food and Drug Administration. Zheng was convicted of receiving nearly $1 million in bribes to approve substandard drugs, including six that were completely fake. At least 10 people died from the drugs.
This of course was part of a larger scandal that has brought China's exports under broad scrutiny. Bad cough syrup, contaminated seafood and poisonous pet food from China have caused a rash of deaths. With their exports at risk of being banned from lucrative markets, the Chinese are also worried that unsafe food may cause a disaster at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
So the execution of Zheng – extreme even by China's standards – was part of the government's effort to assure the world it is concerned about product safety and is taking action ... by executing a bureaucrat.
China executes 8,000 people a year – about four times as many as the rest of the world's countries combined. Historically, death has been by public firing squad or a simple shot to the back of the head. But about a year ago, the country adopted a more "humane" method. It bought a fleet of execution buses that go from town to town delivering death by lethal injection, according to USA Today.
Kang Zhongwen, who designed the rolling execution chambers, told USA Today that they are emblematic of the way China "promotes human rights now." Of course, they are more efficient than firing squads, too, since the condemned person can be walked out of the courtroom and into the bus without the need to assemble a firing squad.
Meanwhile, back in America, Scooter Libby was convicted of perjury and received a prison sentence that was actually moderate under the mandatory sentencing established by the Bush administration.
Well, it's mandatory unless you happen to be a friend of the administration who, bored in prison, might begin singing like a canary. So Bush commuted his sentence, saying he respected the jury's verdict but found the sentence "excessive." Does that make sense to you?
This is the same man who, as governor of Texas, made jokes about Karla Faye Tucker's bid for clemency. The murderer had become a born-again Christian in prison and everyone from the pope and Newt Gingrich to the Indigo Girls and Pat Robertson had supported commuting her sentence to life in prison. No go for Karla. Bush refused to intercede, and she was executed in 1998, causing most of the civilized world to question America's bloody sense of justice.
Bush argued that Libby would still have to serve two years of probation and pay a $250,000 fine – hardly a problem for a man whose friends had raised $5 million for his legal defense. And, at this writing, it looks as though Libby will not even have to serve the two years of probation.
Finally, I heard the latest in the case of Genarlow Wilson, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for having oral sex at a party with a 15-year-old girl when he was 17. The law under which he was convicted has been rewritten, and a Monroe County judge has reduced his conviction to a misdemeanor and ordered his release.
But Attorney General Thurbert Baker appealed the ruling, so Wilson remains in prison, where he has already served two years. Now it turns out the original prosecutor of the case, Douglas County attorney David McDade, has been circulating the infamous video tape of the sex party, claiming he had to release it under the state's Open Records Act.
Only a fool cannot see that his real motive is to shock people into taking his side. Indeed, it also developed last week that McDade sent two people from his office to harass the mother of the girl who performed oral sex on Wilson. She has publicly opposed the sentence, stressing that her daughter said her participation was consensual.
What do these three instances of "justice" have in common? All three are miscarriages of justice, of course. The young powerless man, Wilson, must endure years in prison pleading for commutation of a sentence for a crime that is no longer a felony. The White House political appointee doesn't have to serve a day for a crime nobody, including the president, disputes he committed. And, in China, a government official who takes bribes is executed for political purposes.
Justice is nowhere near blind. She is deranged.
Cliff Bostock holds a Ph.D. in depth psychology. For information on his private practice, go to www.cliffbostock.com.
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