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Criminal justice?

By Scott Shore
web posted February 16, 2004

Carlie Brucia
Brucia

I never knew Carlie Brucia or her family. This sixth grade girl from Sarasota, Florida was brutally murdered after being kidnapped on her way back home from a party with her schoolmates earlier this month. Carlie is now known nationally. I know little about this young girl but her senseless death represents an unimaginable tragedy to her parents and family and a sense of loss to nameless millions who were able to witness her abduction through the tape of a car repair company's parking lot camera. This tape has been shown endlessly on national TV. We know little about her murderer, a 37 year old man with three daughters of his own, Joseph Smith.

Here's what we do know: Joseph Smith has been convicted on over a dozen felony charges. He was acquitted of an attempt to commit a similar crime within the last decade but has been guilty of a number of drug and assault related crimes within the last few years. As late as last December, Joseph Smith was found to be in violation of parole terms and might have been imprisoned. The face of Joseph Smith, a white man, a mechanic, aged 37, married with three children is the face of evil itself. What in the name of everything that is sacred was this man doing free on the streets? This is as clear a case as I can think of in which our criminal justice system is in fact a justice system that is itself criminal.

What civilized society allows these predators to skulk about our streets? I do not give one whit about whatever private demons may have possessed Joseph Smith. I do not care about his mother or father, his childhood or his disappointments in life. By his brutal behavior he has forfeited any sympathies that decent humans can feel for him. He is a man outside the law and outside the very fellowship of humanity itself. What excuse can the courts and the justice system give to the family of Carlie that explains why this man was in a position to murder their child and then dump her young body near a church parking lot to rot like carrion in the elements? This is clearly a case in which judges and parole officers are complicit in the crime. Should the State of Florida be considered criminally negligent in the most basic of all responsibilities of government which is to protect the life of its citizens? Perhaps victims should have recourse to file for criminal negligence against the State and its agents?

Joseph Smith
Smith

Joseph Smith is only outstanding in that he is so prosaic and banal a figure. He is a man of no distinction. Like the myriads of evil men, he is a nobody, a bland meaningless person than is not noticed in the crowd. Butchers of humanity are seldom great figures but only anonymous phantom-people. They permit the killing fields of Cambodia, the massacres of Serbs, Bosnians and Albanians, the massacre of Armenians or the faceless soldiers at Auschwitz. By his soul existing in the form of a human body, the very image of God, this man has desecrated his entire self and is in fact beneath the existence of the lowest animals. The fact that he is made of the material components of fire, air, water and earth means that part of God's world itself is imprisoned. There can be no greater redemption for this man or the world than his return to ashes and the elements so he no longer mocks Creation.

There is something more unsettling and disturbing about the murder of Carlie Brucia by this no-man Joseph Smith. How many other acts of evil and perversity do not make national television? In any given day how many senseless murders or assaults on the personhood of innocent people take place? The very ordinariness surrounding the crime speaks to its likely omnipresence. There is even something more troubling. Over thirty Russians riding the subway in Moscow were murdered by a Chechen terrorist. That means over thirty entire worlds were destroyed. We shall never know the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers or friends in these cases. We shall never know the shattered lives left in the aftermath of that event. After 9/11 we shall never really know the unfolding story and pain of the families of the victims. We shall never know the suffering of the families of busloads of Israelis blown up by random violence. A question haunts our souls, "How can a merciful God permit this?" We can not go there and we must stand silent in the face of this question. These are not questions mortals can answer. We can only take responsibility for what is in our hands.

Certainly those who take innocent human life have lost the opportunity to expect any forgiveness except from the Almighty. It is our job to deliver strict judgment without mercy. It says in the Talmud, "Those who are merciful to the cruel shall be cruel to the merciful." The Bible rebukes King Saul of Israel for failing to kill Agag, the King of the Amalekites as well as all destroying the entire Amalekite people!! For this reason, Saul loses the right to kingship to Israel. One might wonder why this moment of compassion is held against Saul. We learn later that one of the descendents of Agag is the infamous Haman found in the Book of Esther. Haman plotted to precede Hitler by over two thousand years. It is said by the mystics that all the great evil leaders have the soul of the Biblical Amalek. This is the same people that we are told had no fear of God and sought to annihilate the Israelites after the Exodus from Egypt before God could reveal Himself on Mount Sinai. The bottom line is that Evil is real and does exist. We may not know why it is permitted but we know that we have a holy obligation to fight such evil. We must do our job and let God do His.

How have I wandered so far from the murder of a young girl that I don't know to matters of Biblical proportion? Because to the family of Carlie this is a matter of Biblical proportion and the same is true for anyone who can sympathize with millions of victims of evil. Along with my prayers of comfort for the family of Carlie, I pray for strict justice not only for the aptly no-man named Smith but for justice to those who showed mercy for the cruel and for all those who stood by while this Evil existed. In the Bible there is the concept of a "rodef" which means a person who means to do evil. It commands us to stop this person before he commits his treacherous deeds.

When Joseph Smith is found guilty of kidnapping and murder (as I am sure he will), I do not want to hear from those who would save his life. Death by execution is the law in the State of Florida. It is probably too compassionate to fit this crime. Yet the death of this man is a celebration of Humanity! The fact that O.J. Simpson walks free is a decree against our nation. The blood of his wife screams from the soil. When it comes to all the Joseph Smiths of the world, it is our job to rid them from our midst. It is only the Almighty who mysteriously permits such creatures to exist who can judge them beyond human understanding. In the meantime, let us think of the soul of Carlie, her family and friends and those of all the victims of these monsters in our midst.

Scott Shore is an educator and political columnist who lives in Providence, RI.

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