I Just Don't Get It...
Now here's a quote for you: "I take this opportunity of writing these few lines to you hoping to find you in good health. Me and Charley is sentenced to be hung at five o'clock for a robbery. Give my best to Frank and Sam."
Swift and Exacting
This line is taken from the last letter written by one John Bueroft, one of the many would-be Argonauts who "rushed" the California Motherlode goldfields in 1849. I've taken some time to try and find out more about Bueroft and his hanging, but to no avail. Evidently, both he and his pard Charley were hung for their transgression in some mining camp or boom town...where exactly I don't know. As I've written about in Bedrock Dreams previously, justice could be (and most often was) swift and exacting in the gold camps of the American West and Southwest. You may or may not agree with this sort of "vigilante" justice, but Bueroft and his pard were a product of the times they lived in and so was the justice meted out to them. Murder and thievery were considered capital crimes during the Gold Rush and like it or not, there were no public defenders at hand to ensure that Bueroft and Charley received their "legal rights"...a prolonged, drawn-out trial; long-term incarceration at the public's expense, or the chance to cop to a plea deal. Bueroft's few words are succinct and to the point without any "poor, poor pitiful me" self-victimization or false protestations of innocence. He simply states the facts of his situation and his impending fate. I admire him for that. I truly do, despite the fact that he and Charley overstepped themselves during a time when robbery could get you hung from the nearest tree.
Contrast this gold camp justice to crime and criminal activity today and you'll readily see what a wide gap there is in bringing criminals to justice in courtrooms throughout the United States. It is not their victims who are given the benefit of the doubt, but the perpetrators themselves who are given every opportunity to wriggle off the legal hook no matter how insidious their crimes. Yes, I understand the need for a legal system that finds transgressors "innocent until proven guilty." But I do have a problem with any legal system that prolongs the life cycle of any psychopathic, or otherwise violent criminal who has committed horrendous acts of kidnapping, rape, murder, or child predation and has been convicted of those acts in a modern courtroom. If you want an insight into where I'm going with this chain of thought, get online and pull up one of the state prison websites and their list of death row inmates. Let's take Arizona or Texas for instance. Pull up their lists of "dead men walking" and read the short, horrific synopses of their crimes, then stare at their mugshots for a bit where some of their faces are fixed in the camera's eye smiling or smirking. To be honest, it makes my blood boil. Many of these criminals have been on their respective death rows for 10, 15, or even 20 years or more filing appeal after appeal to escape the punishment they are so deserving of. That said, do I think that if John Bueroft and Charley were alive today that they should receive the death penalty for the crime of robbery? Of course not, barring any unknown or extenuating circumstances or evidence. And the point of fact remains that had these two Argonauts committed their crime in today's world they would be safely ensconced in some jail or state prison lifting weights and getting three squares a day.
(On Arizona death row for kidnapping, raping, and strangling an 8-year old girl and then throwing her body into a ditch like so much trash. He's been on death row since 2004.)
A Prime Example
Here's an example of just how out of touch some people are when it comes to criminal activity today. In New Mexico (where I've lived for 28 years now) just last year a state trooper pulled over a vehicle occupied by two young males for speeding on Interstate 25 (the main north-south highway here). After checking the car's tags and plates and the paperwork of the vehicle the trooper determined that the plates and tags didn't match the vehicle's VIN number. After also determining that the passenger in the vehicle had absconded from bail for previous criminal activity, the trooper ordered the passenger, age 23, out of his seat. Instead of complying, the passenger pulled a gun and fired at the trooper, striking him in the leg. The trooper, despite being hit, made a defensive move to the rear of the vehicle, drew his service weapon, and fired multiple shots through the back window of the vehicle on the passenger's side. The upshot? The passenger was shot dead. Instant justice, you say? I think so. And a huge savings in court and incarceration costs? Probably. But not according to the passenger's mother who has been on local news outlets and TV stations again and again and again lately proclaiming her son was "murdered" by the state police and the officer in question. And of course, her son was a real good kid to boot. So you can readily see what's transpiring in all this...the state trooper is the bad guy and the passenger who shot him in the leg was the "victim." After all, he was just a good kid who had gotten into a little trouble with the law and had absconded from bail. He didn't deserve a violent end. All this from the mother whose protestations are media flames being fanned in the local press (typical mainstream media bullshit). Another prime example of denying responsibility for someone's criminal actions and the ultimate price paid for those actions.
(Graduation day at the New Mexico State Police Academy.)
So let me ask this question? Where does reality exist for the mother of the now deceased passenger? Somewhere out in deep space far beyond the Milky Way where new stars are being formed or going dark? For God's sake! Her son drew a weapon and fired at the state trooper, striking him while he acted in the line of duty. And that trooper, bless his brave heart, isn't supposed to fire back in self-defense in an attempt to save his own life?? I smell the rotten fish odor of ambulance-chasing lawyers (and boo-coo money perhaps?) behind all this posturing on the mother's part a year after the fact. Yep. Her son was a fine young man all right. And the media? Instead of praising the state trooper's heroism in protecting himself and the public at large, they make the mother and dead son the "victims" and give this woman tons of air time. Unfucking believable. I find myself also questioning the mother's parenting skills, particularly considering her darling son's previous criminal track record. And what was that "good boy" of hers doing carrying a loaded gun on his person? To do dirty deeds or protect himself from other criminals, no doubt. So do I think the young man deserved to die like that? No, I don't in general terms. But when he pulled his gun and shot that state trooper he sealed his own fate, pure and simple. Just as John Bueroft and Charley did when they committed a robbery in the mining camp that hung them.
(The text attached to this image? I quote: "Young offenders failed by the care system." You see, it's never their fault, young or old. It's always society that's to blame or their terrible childhood.)
I find this world more and more confusing as time goes by, especially here in the United States where up now appears to be down and wrong is becoming right. I'm not going to go on and on here about the "good old days" when men were men and women were women or criminals received their just desserts. Everything must be seen and interpreted in its own time and space. John Bueroft and Charley lived in a time and place where lines were clearly drawn and the penalties for stepping over those lines were severe. Could we use a bit more of this type of irrefutable justice in our legal system today? More than likely. But let me step back in time again to John Bueroft. As I alluded to at the beginning of this post, there is no begging or pleading in his few written words. He's not claiming to be a victim of his circumstances nor is he protesting his innocence far and wide. No, not at all. There's just a simple statement about his circumstances and the fate he's about to face. And again, I admire that about him. He knew he'd screwed up and had accepted the consequences. Contrast his acceptance and composure to what we see around us today, including the mother who lost her son to criminal activity, not the shots fired by that wounded state trooper.
I just don't get it...
(c) Jim Rocha 2019
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