I have often considered if my silence about Jacob’s case and convictions might be the high road that I should be traveling. Would my silence serve my son better than my proclamation of his innocence?
The prosecution was given the information about my posts on Facebook and this blog, most likely by my son’s ex-family members. In the sentencing hearing, the prosecutor admitted that he had been told about my Facebook posts earlier and saw nothing in them to be used against Jacob; only recently (that day? the day before?) had he learned about my blog. What was the difference between the two because the content was basically more of the same? Both forums were public. So what was the difference? Or was it the family’s insistence that greater punishment be doled out to Jacob because of my words while I became responsible for that harsher punishment? Were there two targets? I would have felt great anguish if my freedom of speech was used against Jacob. As it was, I felt anguish that the sentencing hearing was continued for another two weeks as Jacob was led back down the hall in red scrubs and chains.
Jacob’s first sentencing hearing was continued for two weeks so his lawyer and the judge could read my words for relevance to the sentencing. My words were about our family’s (and his friends’) belief in Jacob’s innocence, and my observations about the events both in this case and my son’s marriage, and about the things I had been told. I also used the police statements and the transcripts from the preliminary hearing and the trial in my posts to ask rhetorical questions. I read stories of other wrongfully convicted people and watched documentaries and the news. It led me to hard beliefs about justice in America. Certainly events of police murder of citizens support that there is rampant racism and injustice in our country and our criminal justice system.
As I began to write my posts and shared one with my husband, he questioned the wisdom of writing them. He was afraid they would hurt my son. On his advice, I told Jacob’s attorney that I had been posting on Facebook. He did not know that I added posts to a personal blog later. I did not show him any of the posts or discuss what I was writing. For all he knew, I might have been writing scathing reviews of his representation and defense of my son. He told me that he did not care what I wrote, but cautioned me against writing anything about the judge before sentencing. I had never intended to write anything about this judge except in the general context of the criminal justice system. I must admit though that his caution gave me pause for the implication in his words.
When the posts were brought up at that first sentencing hearing (resulting in that continuance), Jacob’s attorney was mad. In the hall he angrily began ‘I never told you to……’ (and his words trailed off) as I repeated what he had said to me about writing the posts. I had followed the one piece of advice he gave me.
Even now I wonder if I should continue to write about my son’s case in the event he is successful with an appeal (for, as the judge stated, ‘actual innocence” or “Court error”). Yet writing these blog posts (I have left Facebook completely behind me now.) is as much, or possibly even more (selfishly), for me. I believe that my silence would be viewed as acquiescence to the Court’s decision or to this accuser’s allegations. It would be to admit defeat to lies. That does seem to be what the criminal justice system requires from those convicted, and perhaps even me. There is no place for those who continue to proclaim innocence after conviction. The felon walks a tightrope to follow restrictions and constrictions without giving in to the lies. It seems that the criminal justice system wants to bend, if not break, those who continue to proclaim innocence after conviction, sometimes even setting them up for failure as one person suggested to him.
While I am probably described by many as just another stubborn mother (father, family member, etc.) who refuses to accept her loved one’s guilt, I suggest it might be other mother(s) (fathers, family members, etc.) who refuse to accept the truth. It also seems that the criminal justice system stubbornly refuses to admit their own errors and injustices. Their errors are slowly being revealed in the exoneration of wrongfully convicted men and women who have spent years fruitlessly proclaiming their innocence until someone finally believed in them enough to fight. Are they just the tip of an iceberg of errors and injustice?
How can I be silent? Jacob is innocent of these accusations while quite possibly a guilty person is shielded from justice and protected by silence.
There are certainly times that silence is the better choice. In the sentencing hearing, the prosecution suggested Jacob’s silence should be a factor in sentencing. He said Jacob had not shown or expressed remorse. Did they believe that because the Court had convicted him that he suddenly would flip-flop and proclaim guilt? Did the Court not understand that he still was innocent even though they had decided otherwise? Does the Court believe in their own and a jury’s infallibility? The prosecutor said Jacob had expressed no sympathy for or reached out to this accuser or the accuser’s mother. Would that not have been viewed or twisted as an admission of guilt? I know he had and still has conflicted feelings about this accuser who lied about him. The Court partially agreed with Jacob’s silence as a preservation of his appellate rights, yet also stated that he could have expressed sympathy aloud. Still, would that be prudent for the person who is innocent to make such as statement? It is a minefield for the convicted individual who is innocent.
It becomes a dilemma for many to decide when to speak and when to remain silent.
I thought about the interpretation of silence in the case of Richard Rosario who was recently freed after spending 20 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. The sisters of the murder victim visited this accused man in jail; they held against him his silence in not expressing sympathy to them for the murder of their brother. We expect people to behave in ways that we believe we would behave under the same circumstances. That is my error as much as anyone’s. We believe that our behavior is the right behavior and expect others to behave in the same way. That can be an error, yet it is not wrong to ask questions about people’s behavior. I ask questions about everyone’s behavior, even my own. I would offer this explanation of why Richard Rosario did not offer his sympathy to these young women. They did not visit him for sympathy but to confront the man they believed had murdered their brother. If you were Richard Rosario, would you be angry to be accused of something you had not done? Any words of sympathy he expressed to them might later be twisted into some admission of guilt. So was his silence reasonable and even prudent?