Damien Echols, left, Jessie Misskelley, Jr., center, and Jason Baldwin were locked up in a prison for 18 years, and the reason is ignored.
It is a deeply disturbing, pathological psychosis, but we in fact have authorities who are more willing to kill innocent people than to accept the fact that they have acted on impaired judgement.
In his book, The Consolations of Philosophy, Alain De Botton relates a story concerning Gnaeus Piso, the Roman governor of Syria who was a brave but troubled soul.When a soldier returned from a period of leave without the friend he had set out with and claimed to have no idea where he had gone, Piso judged that the soldier was lying; he had killed his friend, and would have to pay with his life.
The condemned man swore he hadn't murdered anyone and begged for time for an inquiry to be made, but Piso knew better and had the soldier escorted to his death without delay.
However, as the centurion in charge was preparing to cut off the soldier's head, the missing companion arrived at the gates of the camp. The army broke into spontaneous applause and the relieved centurion called off the execution.
Piso took the news less well. Hearing the cheers, he felt them to be mocking his judgement. He grew red and angry, so angry that he summoned his guards and ordered both men to be executed, the soldier who hadn't committed murder and the one who hadn't been murdered. And because he was by this point feeling very persecuted, Piso also sent the centurion off to his death for good measure.
The governor of Syria had at once interpreted the applause of his soldiers as a wish to undermine his authority and to question his judgement.
This paranoia, where authorities like Piso circle the wagons and destroy everything and everyone who challenges their judgement is evidently the common thread behind every miscarriage of justice.
Is justice a psychotic construction? When we act like authorities like Piso, it certainly is.
Errors of judgement are very common. The refusal to acknowledge them, should not be.
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