Thursday, January 20, 2005

Coleman received restorative justice

Rev. Charles Kiker of Tulia Friends of Justice left these comments in the post below regarding the outcome of Tom Coleman's perjury trial. The Amarillo Globe News claimed that any more punishment than probation would have been a "miscarriage of justice." I wanted to make sure Grits readers saw what he has to say.
I am no fan, nor defender, of Tom Coleman. I don't feel jail time would have been a "miscarriage of justice," but I do feel justice was served. Tom got a stiff sentence, a 7 year prison sentence suspended for 10 years--no alcohol, no guns, can't leave Ellis County without his probation officer's permission, a $7,500 restitution payment to Swisher County; he can never again work as a police officer. Now that one's good for Tom, and good for all of us!

Jail time for Tom would have been revenge for the jail time the Tulia defendants served. Our justice system really shouldn't be about revenge, but it is. A nicer word is retribution, but it means about the same thing.

Our justice system is based on retributive justice. Biblical justice is restorative justice, making things right. Tom's sentence approached restorative justice. In retributive justice, the model our system is based on, Tom should have served time.

Tom's victims received a miscarriage of retributive justice. Tom got restorative justice in a retributive system. And that ain't right!


markm said...

I think 7 years probation is fairly harsh for what Coleman was actually convicted of. (If I understand it correctly, it was perjury about the status of the case against him for stealing gasoline.) I wouldn't get upset at probation even if he'd been convicted of fueling his own truck from the county pump, too.

I'm assuming that he wasn't convicted of gas stealing because it was just another cop's word against his - and that it wasn't possible to introduce the evidence that Coleman's word had proven worse than worthless in nearly 100 other cases. Now, if juries would just be as skeptical of one cop's unsupported testimony against anyone other than a cop...

Of course, for what he DID, he should spend a year in jail for every year served by his Tulia victims. Or rather, he should die in prison, because that must be close to a thousand years. But that's not what he was on trial for.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Here's the counter-argument: The issue regarding punishment shouldn't be what Coleman lied about, it's WHY he lied. At the time he told this particular fib he was testifying in court attempting to misrepresent the facts in order to secure a final conviction. That he lied about stealing gas isn't so important as that the REASON he lied was to obtain a wrongful conviction.

I agree that it would have been a lot cleaner if the statute of limitations hadn't run out on his lies in the original trials. As Crime and Federalism says, juries love police, so I doubt he'd have received prison time in any event.