Justice For All

Translated, abridged, slightly embellished but still faithful to the Russian original — I swear, because I’ve done all of the above  — this is a story I came across not long ago in a Russian blog I follow.

It’s a true story. It surprised me, horrified me and amused me.  With so much going in one story, I want to share it in this post.vignette

I finished my lecture with a passage about the complexities of interpreting a2psychiatric terminology into legalese, and suggested that it’s best to avoid being drawn into litigation. I concluded with a ritual phrase, “Are there any questions?”, almost sure there would be none.

I was wrong. One student had a question.
“Professor, does this mean you’ve never been involved in a court case?”
“I have. On several occasions I had to appear in court as an expert witness. Sometimes those things are unavoidable. And once I even “directed” the legal process behind the scene, acting not as a doctor…”

The audience hushed, watching me expectantly, sensing that I was about to tell them something they wouldn’t find in their textbooks.

“Sometime ago I attended a conference held in … uh … a large provincial city. A man and a woman — a married couple, as it happened  — approached me. They needed advice. Lawyers couldn’t help them, they said, but they had heard I have a reputation of someone who can find unorthodox solutions to legal problems.

a4In a nutshell, they lost their only child, a son. He was a nice boy in his early 20s, a student, occasionally moonlighting as a taxi driver. One night, his passenger, a young woman, attacked him with a knife, attempting a robbery.  He fought back the best he could and tried to escape, but couldn’t fend off the attacker.

While the boy was slight in build and timid, the girl was tall, formidably muscled, like a bodybuilder, and, as it transpired later on, was a repeat offender with a long criminal history. She robbed and then stabbed him. The wound was mortal – the knife severed his femoral artery. The boy died of blood loss.

a1Covered in blood , brandishing a knife, the robber-lady was accosted by police near the scene of a crime and detained. She claimed the taxi driver attacked her with rape in mind, and she stabbed him in a desperate act of self-defense.

Her lawyers launched an extensive media campaign, sparking an outrage among law abiding citizens across the country. Horror of horrors, an honest and helpless woman can no longer fend off a rapist! The feminist movement wholeheartedly supported “the victim of a brutal attack on a defenseless woman who courageously defended her honor and, perhaps, her life”.

The case went to trial. The lawyers, hired by the boy’s parents, unearthed the woman’s criminal past. Several taxi drivers were robbed at knife-point by this young lady. However, the opposing counsel requested that the information be withheld from being presented to the jury as irrelevant and damaging to the reputation of a “victim of a brutal rape attempt”.

The request was granted, and she was acquitted . The counsel hired by the parents challenged the court’s decision on the grounds that certain procedural irregularities had taken place in the selection of the jury.

The case went back to court for a retrial. With the trial date fast approaching, there was little hope for a different outcome. The parents’ laywers weren’t optimistic, suggesting that defeat on the retrial was inevitable…

“And what did you suggest?” the curious student prodded.

a3I gave it some thought, I said… It is possible to convict the murderous lady, I informed the parents, but it will be psychologically difficult for you. You see, to have a shot at getting justice for your son you’d have to discredit his reputation.

Our son is dead, the parents said. Those who knew our boy won’t change their opinion of him, and the opinion of strangers is not as important as justice.

Thus I developed an agenda of “counter-propaganda”, so to say. First, we started a rumor that the lady-robber was actually a man. It was easy enough, given her threatening physique — she was a rather manly creature, 6 feet tall with overdeveloped biceps.

The media began publishing scandalous stories about a man posing as a woman and robbing taxi drivers in the dark of a night, including her “telling” pictures.  At the same time, inconspicuously, the rumors were planted that the dead boy was, in fact, gay.

The narrative of the tragic events was changed accordingly: An enamored boy proposed a homosexual relationship to a man dressed as a woman, and for that alone he was stabbed to death.  In light of the above, instead of the rape attempt and self-defense we have a hate crime — a murder with homophobic undertones.

This newly embellished story stirred gay activists. “Horror of horrors!” they cried out. “Murder! Homophobia! Gay man is killed!”

Naturally, the truth quickly came out: the defendant was a woman after all. Immediately, we planted yet another deceptive info: Overzealous journalists had the whole story backward — it was a dead boy who happened to be a trans woman, in fact, he/she underwent series of sex change procedures.

Yes, he/she was still wearing man’s clothing for fear of being harmed in a bigoted, homophobic Russian society, while getting ready to move to a progressive and tolerant Holland. That is, the murdered trans woman gently offered lesbian relationship to an attractive looking lady… and was knifed in a hate crime against lesbians. We even supplied the phone number of a clinic specializing in sex change procedures.   

Needless to say, hordes of journalists rushed to the clinic for confirmation. The clinic, as expected, refused to divulge any information whatsoever — disclosure of such information would be a breach of doctor/patient confidentiality and an infringement of patient’s privacy, wouldn’t it? No one needed better confirmation than that. Now we know: The dead boy was really a girl!

Once again, in the course of a retrial, the honest to god truth came out. The boy was a boy! Jeez! What next?

However, by then, both feminists and LGBT activists were so confused by the twists and turns of the “plot” that they had stopped supporting the murderous robber lady. On the contrary, representatives of both movements agreed that she disgraced the proud name of a lesbian woman. The popular opinion was that the woman, indeed, was a reprehensible human being.

In the end, she was convicted of having committed murder in the course of a robbery. “As we speak, her lawyers are preparing to appeal the court’s decision,”  I concluded.

“Well, then, professor, does this mean you had calculated every step of the deception in detail, foreseeing the outcome?” someone in the audience asked.

“Oh no, of course not. I simply choreographed the process. Specific details — how, when and what next — weren’t all that important. Confusion, disorientation and opinion manipulation won the case,” I said.  What I couldn’t have foreseen at all, unfortunately, was the effect it had on the parents.”

“And what happened to them? Divorced?”

“If only… You see, they worked closely with LGBT activists for quite some time during the trial. As a result, the husband… well, he came out of the closet he didn’t realize he was in before. Nowadays, he is a popular gay singer, although he has no talent or singing voice to speak of,” I said.

“What about the wife?”

“Suddenly, the woman remembered her Ukrainian roots. The husband is Russian, mind you. She hates his ex now. She changed her name, moved to Western Ukraine and gained prominence as a functionary  in charge of finances of the Ukrainian ultra-nationalistic movement…  Any more questions?”vignette

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