When he discovered that he had unwittingly killed his father and married his mother, Oedipus Rex gouged out his eyes—not an unusual response from a hero of Greek mythology, who took his taboos very seriously.
Mitigating circumstances aside (Oedipus Rex didn’t know these were his parents), patricide in contemporary America has decidedly different moral implications. Let’s just say that, unlike the perpetrator of such an abomination in Greek mythology, the American throwback offers no spellbinding images of an internal struggle.
Fourteen-year-old Derek and 13-year-old Alex King murdered their father Terry King with a guilty and evil mind, and few inhibitions. Patricide was not the only taboo violated in the case. Prosecutor David Rimmer turned the case into two trials. In each, Rimmer presented to the jury an opposing theory, thus subverting the very foundations of the legal system.
Pretty boys Derek and Alex King killed pater because he was an obstacle: The boys wanted to live happily ever after with their neighborhood pedophile, 40-year-old Rick Chavis. Aside the perks of endless TV and video games, no chores, no school, and no church, Chavis had inducted Alex into the ways of Greek Love.
There were other proclivities Chavis uncorked in little Damien. Like so many American “cherubs,” Alex was prone to believing in his uniqueness. And for brazenly daring to “stare the princely King kids down,” daddy King was going to get it. “Staring down,” and rule setting, according to Chavis’ tutoring—not that different from the message kids get from most progressives—amounted to emotional abuse.
Well, there’s one poor Cat who will not be staring at a King again. Providing a remarkably vivid and consistent confession, the boys told of how they bludgeoned their father to death with an aluminum baseball bat, as he slumbered in a recliner.
The boys soon recanted their confessions, and fingered Chavis, after their defense team claimed Chavis had killed the boys’ father because he was obsessed with angel-faced Alex.
Matters were rendered unclean when, in trial B, the defense’s case became the prosecution’s case. The same prosecutor, who had the boys wielding the bat in one trial, argued to a different jury that Ricky Chavis wielded the very same bat.
Tough-on-crime conservatives show little care for the Rights of Englishmen. They care not that “the foremost task of a justice system is to find justice and serve the truth.” I can hear them say, “Throw the book at the contemptible pedophile, just so long as something sticks.”
Prosecutorial power to bring charges against a person is an awesome power, stress Paul Craig Roberts and Lawrence M. Stratton in The Tyranny of Good Intentions. Backing him, the prosecutor has the might of the state, and must never “override the rights of the defendant in order to gain a conviction.”
Prosecutorial duties are dual. While acting as the plaintiff, the prosecutor must also take pains to protect the defendant’s rights.
More of a Benthamite bureaucrat than a truth seeker, Rimmer attempted, with insufficient evidence, to accuse Ricky Chavis of helping plan the murder. When Judge Frank Bell rejected this ploy, Rimmer came back with another.
Chavis was at home at the time of the crime. He received a call from the boys, collected them, washed their clothes and, the following day, delivered them to the local sheriff’s office. Whereas it’s the duty of a prosecutor never to bring the full force of government against an individual in an attempt to make indictments stick, Rimmer did just that: He charged Chavis with the murder.
Can anyone honestly claim that this prosecutor discharged his obligation under the law—that he presented both the grand jury and the trial juries with a single, coherent case in which he believed? Can anyone sincerely claim Rimmer provided evidence of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt before laying charges against Chavis?
Unlike the defense attorney, whose job it is to defend the accused, regardless of guilt, the prosecutor’s job is to jail only those who are actually guilty. It is not unethical for a defense attorney to get a guilty client off—if the prosecutor can’t meet his burden of proof, it’s not the defense’s fault. But it is unethical for the prosecutor to prosecute someone he does not firmly believe is guilty.
Not only were David Rimmer’s dual trials under mutually exclusive theories inconsistent with his prosecutorial duties, they were tantamount to prosecutorial misconduct and violation of due process.
The jury convicted the boys of second-degree murder without a weapon. Analysts postulated that this incongruent sentence amounted to a jury’s pardon. After all, the boys were so young and beautiful. Turns out, the jury who tried the boys viewed them as mere accomplices, and accepted Chavis’ guilt. Miraculously, the jury that tried Chavis did not.
© By ILANA MERCER
September 11, 2002