Monday, January 31, 2011
We watched a documentary last night called After Innocence. It was about men who’d been falsely convicted of crimes they didn’t commit, and were only exonerated later by DNA evidence. In some cases, they spent well over twenty years behind bars before being released.
The reticence to even hear new evidence or to re-examine old evidence on the part of the judicial system was startling… in some cases, it was clear that the finality of the conviction was far more important to the court than the fact of the accused man’s innocence. And even in the cases where the prosecutors and judges admitted to their mistake, no recompense was offered. In some cases, not even a simple apology.
The documentary focused mostly on the exonerated men’s lives afterwards-- how they went about trying to pick up the pieces of their lives, get jobs, co-exist in the world. No easy task.
What amazed me most about all of them was their capacity for forgiveness. None of them seemed particularly bitter. That absolutely blew my mind. You can’t help but imagine yourself in that situation, and how you’d react, but something tells me I wouldn’t be anywhere NEAR that magnanimous.
On the court steps, immediately after his release, one man was asked by a reporter, “So what are your plans now?” to which the man responded, “I’m going to go home to my family and try to live my life.” And I knew, I just KNEW, that if that was me in that position and the reporter asked me the same question, my answer would be, “I’m going home to begin plotting my diabolical revenge!”, followed, of course, by an evil laugh.
If ever something cried out for vengeance, this situation would surely be it, wouldn’t it?
But I suppose that’s the writer in me. Even while watching the documentary, something in the back of my brain began working out the revenge scenario: who would be targeted and how.
I don’t know about you, but I love a good revenge story. Count of Monte Cristo, anyone?
And who knows? Maybe, somewhere in the back of their minds, these innocent victims of the justice system DID have revenge scenarios. They were just too decent to play them out. Good for them. And revenge would, no doubt, be a bad idea anyway.
That’s why we have revenge stories. We all know it’s a bad idea to actually DO it, to actually turn the tables on the ones who wronged you and exact fitting retribution. But there’s no harm in a good tasty story of vengeance.