Daily Archives: March 17, 2008

From Jason V to Josef K

“Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning” (1). from The Trial, by Franz Kafka (1925)

THE GENERAL LAWS OF MASSACHUSETTS http://www.mass.gov/legis/laws/mgl/278-8a.htm

Chapter 278: Section 8A.
Killing or injuring a person unlawfully in a dwelling; defense

In the prosecution of a person who is an occupant of a dwelling charged with killing or injuring one who was unlawfully in said dwelling, it shall be a defense that the occupant was in his dwelling at the time of the offense and that he acted in the reasonable belief that the person unlawfully in said dwelling was about to inflict great bodily injury or death upon said occupant or upon another person lawfully in said dwelling, and that said occupant used reasonable means to defend himself or such other person lawfully in said dwelling. There shall be no duty on said occupant to retreat from such person unlawfully in said dwelling.

Jason’s prevaricator is not a someone, but a something: a video camera. Actually, it is not a liar at all. It shows to us what it sees and we make the lie or see the truth.

We do not see a young man threatened or provoked or in danger; instead we see a threat, a provocateur, a danger and we arrest him and charge him with most severe crime possible. We’d prefer that he’d stay in his room or fled to safety or wait until the men who went from his window to the entrance of his dwelling got to him and beat him and battered him until he was dead. Then we might find a little sympathy. Even then some would not. A dead, dark-skinned man is just as pathetic to a living one to the one who sees race and hates the black man. The business of the University would go on. The window to his room would be repaired. The dorm cleaned up. Someone again would be rented the space. A man would be dead, but things would go on as they must.

We detest violence. We wish Super Bowl Sunday would have ended and everyone gone to bed and no one would have had the bad taste to disturb Jason and his friends’ peace. We wish the intruders would have gone their merry way and that John Bowes, 20, of Hancock, N.H., and Jonathan Bosse, 19, of Milton, would have not targeted Jason because of his being black. Their attempt to cause fear and intimidation in non-racist people is something we detest. The hate crime we suspect that they perpetrated through physical assault, damage to property, bullying, harassment, verbal abuse and insults is the wrong that was committed here on February 3, 2008. The prosecutors would have us believe that the right response to such a crime is to cower and to await rescue from the police. Is the picture of Jason they will try to paint that he was a macho menace who responded to a minor bit of bad behavior with awful, deadly force? Go and read your Kafka…

“You should have stayed in your room! Didn’t Franz tell you?” “And what is it you want, then?” said K., looking back and forth between this new acquaintance and the one named Franz, who had remained in the doorway. Through the open window he noticed the old woman again, who had come close to the window opposite so that she could continue to see everything. She was showing an inquisitiveness that really made it seem like she was going senile. “I want to see Mrs. Grubach … ,” said K., making a movement as if tearing himself away from the two men – even though they were standing well away from him – and wanted to go. “No,” said the man at the window, who threw his book down on a coffee table and stood up. “You can’t go away when you’re under arrest.”

The Prosecutors are pushing The Process. They see this case in black and white. How they will make the victims of their case (Bowes and Bosse) the innocent, guiltless party who are stabbed by a man with a broken nose (caused by their case’s “victims”) is where we go from Jason V to Josef K.

I am really disturbed by the madness of all this. I do not like that Jason had a knife and that Bowes and Bosse got cut by it. I would like it whole lot less, however, had Jason not defended himself and instead let Bowes and Bosse maim, paralyze, or kill him. It is easy for any of us not there to wish for myriad other outcomes. It is easy for us to say why did not Jason hide under his bed until UMPD arrived on the scene and protected him from harm. It can also be asked why did not Bowes and Bosse become decent human beings and refrain from their criminal ways and go home before entering Jason’s dwelling and breaking his nose? What I see is that a conflict ensued between two young men (being hateful racists) against one and the outnumbered man using a knife to defend himself from his attackers. The Process-cutors say they see something different and they are dealing with the “facts.” What facts? The word of a video camera. When a video camera showed the LAPD giving Rodney King an unmerciful beating a jury in Simi Valley said it was not so and declared the officers innocent of any wrongdoing. That trial was in 1992 and it set off some of the worst violence in U.S. history. What have we learned?

Yes Jason has many lessons to learn from this. He has suffered tremendously and is suffering now with a felony prosecution hanging over his head like the sword of Damocles. Above all I believe that Jason knows better than anyone the wretchedness of the way of the violent and the hateful. I would imagine he would like to stay as far away from the likes of Bowes and Bosse as he can for the rest of his life. While we cannot run from the Bowes and Bosses of the world, anymore than we can evade the Seung-Hui Chos or the Steven Kazmierczaks, we must get the people we pay and empower to deal with criminals to do their jobs–the police. Protecting ourselves by any means necessary is bottom line, but in our Kafkaesque world we had better find a way to make our law enforcement and criminal justice systems work for us whenever we can, otherwise more of us, the innocent and the non-violent, may end up like Josef K and Jason V. The Umass Amherst community is smarter and better than that, right?