For a long time, I was a STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION fan. What I loved about the show was how it wasn’t squeamish to take on certain topics that although it was a science fiction show, was based very much in the real world of today. Whether it was the Klingons or the Romulans, the Cardassians, or the Dominion as was the case of the spin-off to TNG, STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE, there was one underlying truth about it: It dared to tackle the things we in this ‘real’ world thought was beyond the realm of possibilities. There was one episode in TNG‘s fourth season titled The Drumhead. It was an amazing episode featuring an incredible performance by guest star, the late Jean Simmons, as Starfleet Admiral Norah Satie. The plot of the episode was simply, a young Starfleet cadet named Simon Tarses is accused of committing high treason against the Federation by failing to admit his Romulan heritage. Admiral Satie goes on a futuristic witchhunt in order to weed out the corruption within Starfleet and takes Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) to task for daring to try to defend Tarses. Within the episode’s intricate storyline, Satie believes there is further corruption inside the Federation and within the ranks of The Enterprise’s crew. She even accuses Picard of being ‘in on it’. [ Full synopsis can be found here: Wikipedia ] At a crucial point in the episode and under heavy examination by Satie’s prosecutor, Picard stops the procedings and issues this statement:
You know, there are some words I’ve known since I was a schoolboy: “With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censured, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably.” Those words were uttered by Judge Aaron Satie, as wisdom and warning. The first time any man’s freedom is trodden on, we’re all damaged.
What Picard meant is that, with the first accusation or the first illegal thing done, there is a slippery slope that creates a landslide. This landslide continues until everything that was, is forever wiped out and nothing of what used to be, remains. I should also take the time here to give a meaning to the word drumhead What it refers to is the custom where summary justice dispensed on the battlefield, around an upended drum, where appeals were always denied. Customarily, during a drumhead trial, there is an implied lack of judicial partiality which renders almost always, a verdict of guilty and summary judgement in the form of death for the offender.
How does all of this pertain to Roman Polanski?
To say I’m dismayed at the recent rulings in the Roman Polanski case, would be undercutting what I actually feel. For some reason the California District Attorney’s office under DA Steve Cooley and DA David Walgren seem to not want to have aired certain facts of this case. I’m not sure if it has anything to do with Cooley’s current run at the Attorney General of the State of California, but there is somethering rotten in Denmark. What is particularly suspect is why no one wants to look into the gross judicial misconduct made by Judge Laurence J. Rittenband. What people fail to note, and there is a certain few posters over at Polanski’s IMDB board you can view [ HERE ], who seem to think this is just about Polanski. It isn’t.
If Rittenband has been found to have committed other cases of judicial misconduct, then this throws all of his rulings into serious review. Any link along that thing called chain of custody is suspect, then the whole case is deemed either unprosecutable, or totally unable to be adjudicated with the fullest essence of what the law is supposed to represent. It is not something that is arbitrarily used to convict those who are of a certain bracket. Whether that be gender based, class based, or even ethnically based. It is supposed to be blind. There was nothing blind about what Judge Rittenband was doing to Roman Polanski. By nature of his refusal to accept the terms of the plea bargain, Rittenband excercised not only poor judgement, but allowed his own record throughout his career become susceptable to review. And any fair verdict of those actually guilty of their offense, could now be subject to reversal and perhaps even, freedom for those actually guilty of committing crimes more serious than the one count of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor that Polanski was not convicted of, but rather, pled to under a scripted dramatic reading in Rittenband’s courtroom.
In the NBC procedural LAW & ORDER: SPEICAL VICTIMS UNIT fifth season episode “Poison”, guest star Tom (“Alien”) Skerritt played the part of Judge Oliver Taft. Taft came under the scorn of ADA Casey Novak played by Diane Neal for his class bias. With a mirror turned, it might well have been the Roman Polansk case. Here it is in its entirety:
What is astonishing here is that the plot of this episode is exactly what happened in the Roman Polanski case; the judge having total control over everything from how the ADA dressed to the way the child was more or less best up on in the Taft’s chambers. Why this means so much to me is that without transparency in our courts, houses of government and in those places were we expect to have parity, we cannot truly say that such things are transparent. Unless we demand this of our judges, prosecutors, senators, politicians, we remain linked forever to that all too rare of birds, forfeiting our rights for those of a select few who dictate our futures. And without proper review and that aspect of being allowed to A) confront our accusors, and B) demand transparency, we are giving up our human freedoms. Just because a select few deem Roman Polanski a criminal from a proceeding that was by its very aspect, illegal, we are setting a dangerous precedent we can never recover from.
Roman Polanski was never convicted. That is a fallacy often repeated for the purient interest of those refusing to learn the facts. He was never truly found guilty due to the impropriety of Rittenband’s courtroom. That it has been recently revealed that Roger Gunson, the original prosecutor in the case, has given sworn testimony which can be read here: Roman Polanski Appeals Document (PDF format) ], that Rittenband engaged in illegal conduct, and that the current presiding judge, Espinoza, has refused to allow the unsealing of that document leaves Espinoza with nothing more than the taint of Rittenband towering over his courtroom. Again, another link forged in the judicial persecution of Roman Polanski. What is shocking is that no one other than Polanski’s supporters seem to care about this. There is the notion that because Roman Polanski is not an American, he doesn’t deserve the full rights and freedoms given to those inside the United States. This conjures some kind of absolute rule of kings those who left England for the New World, sought to escape from. Where only the elite can dictate what will or will not happen to those of us on the ground. Some might even state that Roman Polanski has enough money to defend himself. He’s rich. Well, not so much. The erroneous belief that Polanski whose net worth back in 1977 was cited as being no more than $60, 000.00 American, is a rich man, is not true. He has a limited coffer from which to pull. And all of these legal arguments he’s been forced to fight, he is has little left. Consider too, how much interest the Swiss are pulling from the $4.5 million dollar bail Polanski had to post in order to be released to his Gstaad chalet. One has to wonder if this isn’t an orchestrated move on Cooley and Co’s behalf to bleed the man dry.
It concerns me too that no matter what Polanski does, it seems the Americans are not held to the same standard. The Obama government has still yet to hand over five CIA agents who were sentenced and found guilty in absentia by an Italian court of law for the abduction and torture of a suspected terrorist they spirited from an Italian street, and flown to Egypt where the torture took place. The man was also waterboarded. It appears the man may not have been guilty. Considering there is no evidence whatsoever in this case against Polanski, the same thing that happened to that suspected terrorist, may also happen to Polanski. While I don’t think waterboarding will be a possibility, the notion that a 76 year-old man who has conducted himself with grace and dignity before his flight and after, should be subjected to this behaviour, is plainly sick. When the Americans refuse to do the same with one of theirs, is it any wonder why Polanski refuses to voluntarily hand himself over to a system that has not, nor has it ever been willing to deal with this case fairly and without taint?
All this leaves me with something from the immortal David Bowie. It’s the video to his masterpiece I’M AFRAID OF AMERICANS.
In conclusion: For a country that likes to pride itself on its fairness and its supposed air of being the world’s watchdog and purveyor of justice, it sure doesn’t practice it. And the Roman Polanski case is rife with just the very things that American’s should be questioning…but aren’t. So in that, I’m afraid of Americans. I’m afraid I can’t help it. I’m afraid I can’t…..