My recent "West and the Rest" moment
Apparently I missed all the excitement the first day of the trial.
Thursday I saw a cop car heading up to the courthouse with the siren on. Unfortunatley I was headed in the other direction for a physical checkup.
Turns out a defendant, a Haitian citizen on trial for felonious restraint and simple assault had freaked out in the courtroom and had been removed to another room where he assaulted an officer and had to be put in leg irons. He spent the second day of the trial in his jail cell.
Understand, as far as I could see every attempt was made to include the guy in his defense. A translator was provided and a very intelligent and competent attorney. (Though his skill was severely hampered by the fact that he had zip to work with.)
The defendant had come to our town as part of a program a local enterprise has to bring in weekend shift temp workers recruited from a homeless shelter in Fargo.
A woman who was a night shift supervisor testified how she was impressed with the defendant's willingness to work hard, ambition, and how he always came well-dressed and groomed. Something that evidently made him stand out from the others.
She recounted how she recommended him for a full-time position, found him a room in town and paid first months rent, gave him some money for groceries, and drove him around on various errands to help get him started in town.
This was about four months ago during the flood crisis in our town.
Then the guy snapped.
The proximate occasion seemed to be some minor documentary problems with social security, which everyone was perfectly willing to help him with, and the mandatory closing of all businesses in town ordered by the mayor when the mainsewer system collapsed on a Friday. The defendant wasn't able to access his paycheck over the weekend. B.F.D.
This 60-year-old woman came by on Monday to take this guy to the bank, and was totally unexpectedly subjected to a terrifying ordeal.
He beat her on the head with a closed fist, knocked her down and stomped on her thigh, and at one point locked her in a bedroom.
Of course, she was terrified. At various points she thought she was going to be raped and murdered. She strongly suspected he might have murdered his (also my) landlord and another lodger. (Thankfully, not.)
He screamed, "In Haiti I am a man! Here I am nothing!"
When she asked if she could go he shouted, "No! You are my slave!"
He tormented her by throwing a cell phone on the floor and saying, "Why don't you call the police?" Then jumping up when she moved towards it.
Thankfully, he didn't rape her, but did subject her to humiliation I won't go into.
Then he totally weirded out and said calmly, "I invite you to my wedding. (Evidently an obsession with his landlord's 16-year-old daughter) OK, we go to the bank now."
When she found he had not followed her closely on the way out, she ran for her car, thinking, "Push once, push once." (Referring to her car remote: one push unlocks the driver's door, two unlocks all doors.)
She got in drove down the road, had to turn around, and said to herself, "If he's in the road, I'm not stopping."
She stopped by the first law enforcement officer she found and reported. Later a policewoman found the guy walking down the street jauntily in his pin-stripe suit.
When the officer told him what she stopped for, he cheerfully told her all about how he'd beaten the woman, complete with pantomime gestures of beating with a fist hammer. Backup arrived, and he repeated it for their benefit. And repeated it at length, in English with mixed French or creole commentary, all the way to the police station.
Under questioning he repeated it all again, and again, before and after being Mirandized.
Hold for a point. The victim is still traumatized and broke down on the stand. She was also mortified that this would appear in the paper. I think however the story will be about the defendants bizarre behavior and only minimally about the victim.
I do want to say that I think she acted with good instincts and great courage - and I kind of wish she had had the opportunity to run the son-of-a-bitch down!
A cop I saw on TV speaking about rape victims said, "If you survived, you did the right thing."
Now here's the point of all this. The perp is up for sentencing, max on the felonious restraint, five years. For simple assault, 30 days. But what's most likely is Immigration and Naturalization Service will step in and deport him back to Haiti.
Whether that's better than a prison term in America is another question.
I confirmed with the State's Attorney there had been a psych evaluzaion, and talked to one of the investigating officers.
They are aware that this guy acts crazy by our standards, but maybe not by the standards of his culture.
The translator told the judge (answering a jury question as to whether she could adequately communicate with him) what he'd said while looking at pictures of the victim's bruises.
"They are going to send me to jail for this?" he asked incredulously.
He's explained to any number of people that in Haiti it's perfectly OK to treat women this way.
My take: I think receiving this kindness from a woman was humiliating to him. It put him in the position of being dependent on her. That's the cultural misunderstanding.
My opinion: Back when I was an anthropologist of sorts, I reached a conclusion that may have a lot to do with why I'm not working in the field.
Just as there are insane individuals, there are insane cultures.
Big no-no in social science these days.
So they're wrong - and that's a truth that is not relative, not a matter of opinion, and not "racist," "ethnocentric," or whatever jargon word you want to use.
The wisdom, rightness and effectiveness of "exporting our culture" by whatever means is one of the great debates of our time.
But, what seems beyond debate to me is that we must have the confidence to tell everyone who would come to live with us that you can't bring shit like that with you to our country.
UPDATE: Doing the police reports this morning (the Thursday following the Friday of the trial) there was an 'information only' report from the jail that our Haitian guest had spit in the face of a female correctional officer.
The office deputy commented that this fellow has no trespect for women.
They didn't beat him up and they don't really want him in the North Dakota prison system at all. They just want him off their hands and out of the country.