Friday, November 14, 2014

The Quest for Forgiveness: Chapter 5

Last time, Ethan had a horrible trial where everyone testified against him. The judge is clearly in his favor but the evidence is pretty stacked against him. The defense is meeting the next day.

(There is more discussion of abuse in this chapter, as a heads up for anyone who needs it. But don't worry, after this chapter, that subplot is abruptly dropped and hardly ever referred to again.)
Ethan returned alone to his empty house. Most of the furniture was gone.
What? Why? I mean, I know his family was leaving him, but they were living with Susan's parents, so it's not like they would need furniture right now, even if they were allowed to just take it. Maybe he had to sell all his furniture so he could afford a lawyer.

We also have a sentence that makes me laugh out loud:
Ethan felt as empty as the emptiness of his house.
Well, yup, emptiness sure is empty!

He wanders into Janna's room, where he finds the guitar he was going to give Janna as a present before she started saying he abused her. (It's a very confusing passage, because he says the guitar he bought for Janna after Susan smashed hers was gone, but I think he means that this new guitar was actually the third one he was going to give her for no reason.)

Frustrated with the situation, he smashes the guitar on the piano, because apparently Janna has a piano in her room, which is pretty intense. But also probably reasonable, given that Susan smashes instruments she doesn't want to hear.

He falls asleep in Janna's bed and his father wakes him up half an hour before court time. He hurries out the door and his dad talks about how he has to stop defending Janna because it could ruin his life. He responds:
“I lost Susan long ago. I thought we had something special. As the years passed , I didn’t like what she became. It was pitiful to see her so wrapped up in herself.”
Whoa. No, that was not what happened. He was pretty oblivious to things going wrong for them. That was why he was so devastated when it fell apart -- he was taken completely by surprise. This paragraph reeks of him trying to pull a "Well, I was going to dump her anyway."

He gets to court late. The judge says not to let it happen again, but I'm pretty sure this is the last court session they anticipate having, since he's not testifying in his defense and the prosecution's done. It can't take that long.

Ethan's dad takes the stand, apparently as a character witness, but he spends a lot of his time talking less about Ethan's character and more of it saying he was, for example, really good at music and foreign languages. He talks for like two minutes, the prosecution has no questions, and the defense is done with its case. Well, judge, I'm sure everyone's delighted you reserved an entire day for the defense.

The judge is not pleased with Ethan's decision to not testify for himself:
“Mr. Anderson, you do realize that the only testimony you had was a character witness. That can help in some cases, but unfortunately, most cases like yours are decided by emotions, not facts.”

Here comes the other thing that makes this trial SO RIDICULOUS.

The judge gets all convinced that people are going to decide his guilt based on emotions, not facts.

Let's review the facts of the prosecution's case:
  1. A professional psychiatrist working regularly with Brijanna says her symptoms are consistent with those of abuse.
  2. Brijanna was bruised and visibly frightened when she went to the police.
  3. Brijanna herself says she was abused and provides some details.
  4. Susan says there was opportunity for abuse, though she wasn't able to prove it actually happened.
And now let's review the facts of the defense's case:
  1. The hospital report says Brijanna was not sexually abused, which she never explicitly accused him of in the first place.
  2. Ethan's dad thinks Ethan is a good guy who can speak a lot of languages.
...If we're deciding this based on facts, as the judge is so insistent we should do, the odds are clearly against Ethan. Frankly, even if Ethan DID jump in and say he didn't do it, I'm not sure it would be terribly convincing.

As we will continue to see in this infuriating chapter, the judge has zero idea what constitutes a fact and what constitutes an emotion. Her hunch that Ethan's a good guy? Emotion. Trusting the experts who tell us their professional opinion and how it lines up exactly with what the victim says? Not so much emotion.

So the attorneys present their closing arguments. The prosecution's is, actually, pretty emotion-based, given the facts that she has far more apparent evidence at her disposal than the other side. She ends with this lovely bit:
“Guilty! Guilty! We need to put this man away for many years. I’m sure in prison he will get what he dished out.”
Whoa. Choosing to avoid a thought of "He needs to be held responsible for his crimes," and focusing instead on "I sure hope other people in prison hurt him." Way to be professional.

The defense comments on that:
“What was it you said? In prison he might get what he dished out. I would have thought you were more professional than that.”
I wouldn't blame her too much though. She's not a Christian, so she's pretty much doomed to be evil through and through.

The defense tries to come up with reasons why Brijanna must have lied:
“Imagine this. Your clean-cut son came home late one night with a giant tattoo on his forearm. Or, what if you discovered your daughter was doing drugs? Have you ever known a teenager who faced an unwanted pregnancy? How can you explain the behavior of a teenager? You can’t! Psychiatrists have been trying for centuries.”
Er, and I'm pretty sure most of those examples given have been explained by psychiatrists. And other people. Unwanted pregnancy, tattoos, and drug use are not incomprehensible inexplicable behaviors. Can they be bad choices? (Or, in the case of unwanted pregnancy, results of bad choices?) Sure. But it doesn't mean they're beyond the reach of explanation. And plenty of adults run into these things as well, so it's not unique to teenagers.

I can only imagine one of the jurors being like, "Um, I have a tattoo on my forearm," and all the others gasping and exclaiming, "WHAT MAD IRRATIONAL BEHAVIOR IS THIS?! Who can explain it? We can't!"

The lawyer warns the lawyers that if they find Ethan guilty, it will haunt them for the rest of their lives.

A couple hours later, the jury's made its decision. They pronounce Ethan guilty, and the Evil Feminist Women cheer. The judge fines them $50 each and kicks them out, to which they protest, "We're Americans!" because pfffff, Americans don't pay fines or leave places!

The judge refuses to send Ethan to prison and instead gives him two years in a state medical facility and four years under house arrest. She then tells the jury this:
“While you were running on emotions, I was working with facts.”
The first time I read this, I think this was the first moment when I really wanted to throw the book across the room -- and if it had been a physical book instead of my Kindle, I think I might have. I can deal with the judge operating entirely on her hunch that Ethan's a good guy, since we as an audience know it to be true, but I cannot handle the fact that she thinks her hunch = facts while taking the prosecution's pretty substantial evidence into consideration = emotions.

Seriously, what "facts" did she expect them to take into consideration? There was zero evidence to the contrary, especially since Ethan wouldn't come right out and say he was innocent (since apparently if he did, Muslims would instantly know Brijanna had converted and would kill her).

I have no idea what Rothdiener thinks "facts" means.

Ethan's dad blames the whole mess on Susan, proclaiming:
“If she would have welcomed Janna into your home with love and understanding, none of this would have happened.”
Which is a pretty huge accusation, considering nobody knows why Brijanna lied about it. It could have had nothing to do with Susan at all.

Ethan's time in the rehab hospital goes very well, with him teaching college courses. But then his dad dies and has his identity stolen, so soon he has no money. Because his dad was supposed to be supervising his house arrest and couldn't now, he goes on to prison, where everyone beats him up. His second year in, someone stabs him a bajillion times during lunch, and the No-Emotions-Just-Facts judge from before arranges for him to go back to the clinic.

When he's released, his lawyer shows up and we get an extremely abrupt announcement of how Ethan's doing:
Robert tried to help, but realized Ethan was mentally ill.
His paranoia is "at its peak." I'd have assumed going back to a mental health clinic for three years would be the very best place for him to be after such a harrowing experience in the state penitentiary, but it appears it has actually made him worse.

So Ethan takes off, eventually settling down in a town in Wyoming and working as a handy man truck stop.

The next chapter picks up from Brijanna's point of view. Does this mean we will find out why she randomly accused Ethan of abuse? Here's a hint: The answer begins with N and rhymes with "Go."

1 comment:

  1. Defendants aren't required to say a single word during their trial. The onus is on the prosecution to establish guilt; not for the defendant to deny doing anything. The plea of "not guilty" does that in the first place...which, as I said in my remarks in a previous post, Ethan could have chosen not to go with if he really wanted to spare everyone the trial. "No contest" would have been sufficient.

    Also, does anyone else find it a bit creepy that Ethan falls asleep on Brianna's bed on the eve of his last day in court over accusations that he sexually abused her?

    The only thing remotely right about this entire passage is the defense attorney calling out the prosecutor for openly wishing for his client to be attacked in prison.