CHICAGO, June 20, 2012 — In 1984, Jody Plauché, aged 11, was kidnapped from Louisiana and taken to California by his 25-year-old karate instructor, Jeffrey Doucet. Law enforcement authorities located the pair. Doucet was arrested and Jody Plauché was returned to his parents.
It was reported that Leon Plauché, the boy’s father, was distraught over allegations of sexual abuse of his son by Doucet.
Jeffery Doucet was eventually extradited back to Louisiana. The media was present as he was being led through the airport, escorted by two local police detectives. As they passed a bank of phone booths, a man pretending to make a phone call turned and fired one-shot killing Doucet. (See video)
As he was being grabbed by the police he shouted, “what if it was your son,” or words to that effect. The man was Leon Plauché. He was arrested and tried on a reduced charge of manslaughter. He pled no contest and was given five years probation.
Rumors swirled in media and law enforcement circles that the prosecutor and any other politicians would effectively kill their political careers if a conviction and prison sentence were sought against Mr. Plauché.
Allegedly even advocating on behalf of Mr. Doucet would end political careers.
Community sentiment was heavily in favor of Leon Plauché. A deal was allegedly struck and Plauché walked. That was the end of it. There was no hue and cry for social or moral justice for the victim.
There was also no hue and cry for the federal government to get involved through a civil rights investigation. The Internet and social media had not been invented yet.
On June 9 of this year in Lavaca County, Texas a rancher allegedly discovered an acquaintance, 47-year-old Jesus Mora Flores, sexually abusing his 5-year-old daughter. He pulled Flores off his daughter and beat him to death with his bare hands. He immediately called the police, admitted what he did, and expressed remorse for his actions. He was not immediately arrested. An investigation ensued. The case was ruled a homicide by the coroner.
The case was sent to a grand jury. Yesterday the grand jury declined to return an indictment against the rancher. Community sentiment was highly in favor of the girl’s father. There is also a law in Texas that allows use of force necessary to stop such an assault.
Locals interviewed by the media spoke words to the effect of “what if it was your child?” It should be noted that the father was not identified to protect the identity of the child.
There were no social media lynch mobs screaming for social and moral justice for the “victim”. There have been no national or international headlines screaming for any kind of justice. No one is demanding Eric Holder and his justice department get involved.
Even the FBI isn’t interested.
In 1984 and last week Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson stayed quiet and at home. No one cried for justice for the victim in 1984. No one is crying for justice for the victim this week.
In both of these cases community sentiment determined the fate of two men who killed in a state of emotional rage. Both cases involved allegations of sexual abuse of children. Both homicide victims were alleged to have been the sexual abusers.
The only thing that distinguishes these cases is their 28-year separation. Sentiments about sexual child abuse in these communities have not changed. Both of these cases demonstrate the power of community sentiment.
Prosecutors and sheriffs are elected officials. In many cases they share the community sentiments about certain things. At the very least, they give lip service to those sentiments if they want to stay in office.
In both cases men were violently murdered, one in an airport with a firearm on live television and in front of police detectives, the other on a ranch in Texas.
In both cases there was no doubt who committed the crimes.
In both cases the community deemed justice was done.
In large urban and so-called urbane areas, whether in 1984 or today, calls for the killers heads would be loud, furious, and continuous. There would be cries against vigilante justice. Police, prosecutors, and judges would be tripping all over themselves to send these men to prison for murder.
News media would be championing the dead. We would hear how they were good family men. Their kindergarten graduation pictures would be plastered all over the media.
There would be the obligatory death-scene memorials with candles and teddy bears, otherwise known as litter.
It says something when real criminals are not lauded and their lives publicly paraded as if they were exemplary. It says there are some crimes worse than others.
It says something else too. These cases were both closed. They will say closed. The communities in 1984 and today will see to it.
There are two kinds of justice, legal justice and just us.
Sometimes there is no right or wrong, moral or immoral, legal or illegal. The lines get blurred through the lens of community sentiment. People’s beliefs are grounded, unchanging, and stronger than any law.
Who decides how justice is meted out? Who decides what justice is? Laws are made by, violated by, enforced by, and prosecuted by humans. Humans who are judges and juries mete out justice.
The justice system is never perfect and never will be. Human beings created it. Humans are not perfect.
Justice, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.
Warning: This video depicts a violent murder.
Peter V. Bella is a retired Chicago Police Officer, freelance journalist and photojournalist, cook, and raconteur. He likes to be the irreverent sharp stick that pokes, prods, and annoys. His opinions are his and his alone. Mr. Bella is a member of the National Press Photographers Association and the Society for Professional Journalists.
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