Themis, the daughter of Uranus in Greek mythology, evolved to be depicted as a woman holding a pair of scales in one hand and a sword in another. She is blindfolded to show that justice is impartial, and her sword represents the power that is held by those administering that justice.
Although known by many names, Themis is commonly referred to as "Lady Justice."
I'd like to think of Themis as a mother. Because only a mother can hold a sword in one hand and a pair of scales in another. But I've seen mothers, still weeping over a child's untimely death, who couldn't buy even the illusion of justice.
So I don't take lightly the pain Ryan Rusch's family has had to endure since they learned he was attacked by three teens while playing in a park. I don't dismiss, not for a moment, the anger this white mother must have felt when she was told her son was attacked by three black youths for his cell phone.
There's no greater pain than not being able to protect one's child from the haters in life -- whether those haters are bullies on a playground or shooters in a drive-by. If a mother could, she would use her own body to shield her child from these cruelties.
But she can't. All she can do is demand and expect justice.
Location shouldn't matter
Unfortunately, while the sculpture of Themis is blindfolded, the people who get involved when a crime is committed are not. That's why the Burge report should have sent shock waves across the city. It was proof that the criminal justice system was corrupted at the basic level -- in precincts and jail cells.
The same forces that drove everyone involved to ignore evidence about the documented tortures revealed in the Burge report are the same forces that still conspire to pervert justice. I'm not talking about individuals. I'm talking about the attitude that political expediency trumps the moral obligation to seek justice that is impartial and fair.
That's what I see happening in the Ryan Rusch case.
Without a doubt, when a fragile 14-year-old boy is not safe from a violent attack in a neighborhood park in a community of upscale homes, you know there will be pressure to mete out severe punishment. And because the victim was white and the attackers were black, there was reason enough for police and prosecutors to investigate the attack as a hate crime.
But apparently, because charging the teens with a hate crime would not enhance their punishment, prosecutors have added attempted murder to the charges.
Really, how do prosecutors justify charging these teens with aggravated battery, robbery and attempted murder in a case where the teens beat up the victim and stole his cell phone?
If convicted of a Class X felony, the 16-year-olds would be remanded to a juvenile facility until they are 21. If a judge grants the prosecutors' motion to charge both teens as adults, the additional charge means they would also face 6 to 30 years in an adult prison.
Although charges against Micha Eatman, the 17-year-old, have not been upgraded to attempted murder, it is expected that prosecutors will make that request at his next court appearance.
An attorney for one of the teens claimed that the upgraded charges were politically motivated.
"You can't ignore the neighborhood in which [the beating] occurred," Kathy Roller, an assistant Cook County public defender, said in juvenile court. "Beverly is known as being a very political part of the city."
In other words, had this crime happened in Englewood, Roseland or Garfield Park, it is unlikely that these teens would be facing attempted murder charges. But justice should not be guided by where a crime is committed, the race of the victim or the race of the offenders.
As horrible as the crime is, it just doesn't rise to the level of attempted murder.
Memories of Clark case
Attempted murder fits what Zachariah Blanton, 17, of Gaston, Ind., is accused of doing. Last weekend, Blanton took allegedly his high-powered rifle and went on a shooting spree along Interstate 65 and Interstate 69, killing one man and injuring another. Indiana authorities charged the youth with murder, attempted murder and criminal recklessness.
The closest parallel to the Rusch case is the brutal, racially motivated 1998 beating of black teen Lenard Clark in the Bridgeport community. That attack left Clark with permanent brain damage.
The ringleader in that assault, Frank Caruso Jr., was charged with attempted murder, aggravated battery and hate crimes. But a jury was not convinced Caruso was trying to kill Clark and acquitted him on the attempted murder charges. He was sentenced to eight years in prison and served three.
Two others involved, Michael Kwidzinski, 21, and Victor Jasas, 18, didn't serve any time in prison. After plea bargaining, their punishments were reduced to probation -- two years for Kwidzinski and 30 months for Jasas.
I understand why the Beverly community is outraged over this senseless act of violence.
But Lady Justice is blind. And she never abuses her sword.
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