Despite being married, 23-year-old Alyssa Branton was stalked for months by a much older man who recently shot her dead outside her office building after she refused his advances. Despite providing more than 70 pages of documentation detailing Roger Troy’s bizarre and unwanted behavior, Branton was denied the restraining order that might have saved her life by a Florida judge. His reasoning? She hadn’t provided proof that Troy was a menace.
Evidently for some judges a victim’s knowledge of the danger she’s in doesn’t become proof until the murder is on the books. Judge Moxley, a former prosecutor, should have known better than to allow Troy to harass Ms. Branton unfettered. Her death is the direct result of his failure to intervene on her behalf. When did it become wrong to protect young, beautiful women against perverted, violent older men? That fear of wrongly limiting Troy’s rights caused Moxley to rule as he did is conjecture on my part, yet why else would he fail to execute his duty to protect Alyssa Branton?
Significantly, the Branton case is but one example of society’s impotence in the face of violent criminals. The failure to act to protect the defenseless from violent attacks has never been more evident than in the recent beating of Aiesha Steward-Baker in a Seattle transit tunnel. This brazen stomping took place in full sight of at least two Metro Transit system’s security guards who did nothing to stop the attack even after Baker was knocked down and was kicked repeatedly in the head and face.
Baker, who her attackers allege was violent herself, had repeatedly asked Seattle police for help that evening and was obviously hoping Metro security would protect her. Instead the men ignored her pleas for help and allowed the attack to escalate while they tried to talk the other girl out of her violent frenzy.
When did the idea that paid security forces are not allowed to use force to fulfill their basic duty become the rule that must be obeyed? The guards’ failure to act is an abomination and an abdication of their manhood. Yet they do not deserve the blame; rather, our system that is dominated by the ever-present fear of being sued in court is what created the circumstances that forbade them from interfering on Baker’s behalf. Such is duty and chivalry in the age of the liberal trial lawyer.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government is actually increasing the scope of its police powers by obtaining personal cell phone call data, not only for matters of national security but also for routine matters such as bank robbery, etc. This is in addition to making increasingly sophisticated attempts to mine Internet browsing and email history.
The pattern is clear: Americans are discouraged, at risk of their freedom, from taking matters of their own personal security into their own hands even as local law enforcement fails to meet their needs for fear of making mistakes that might lead to public embarrassment or civil lawsuits. At the same time, the federal government is moving to make personal privacy a thing of the past.
the Obama administration has argued that warrantless tracking is permitted because Americans enjoy no “reasonable expectation of privacy” in their-or at least their cell phones’-whereabouts. U.S. Department of Justice lawyers say that “a customer’s Fourth Amendment rights are not violated when the phone company reveals to the government its own records”
The three cases I’ve briefly outlined above reveal a deeper pattern that we must strive to correct. Individual rights to privacy and personal security have, far from being protected by our system of jurisprudence, been diminished to the point at which Alyssa Branton was murdered in plain view of witnesses after the system failed her.
The cause of the system failure is clear, for the ability of both law enforcement and individual citizens to make judgments has been removed and a complex, legalistic web of process and procedure has been band-aided together in place of common sense and decency.
The number and type of actions that we dare not take has increased dramatically in the post-WW II era. Gone with such acts of courage and principle seems to be the American ideals of truth and justice. In their place, politically correct, non-offensive behavior is required and society has become a dimmer, less secure place as a result, at least for people like Alyssa Branton and Aiesha Baker. In contrast, the criminals who attacked them seemed confident enough in their right to act as they damn well pleased, didn’t they?
I would be lying if I claimed to be exempt from such pressures myself. Far from it. I was recently reprimanded by the Chronicle’s editors for having used in an August post the all-purpose anti-Word that Shall Not Be Written. This word, perhaps best alluded to the musical musings of April Wine, who sang, “If You See Kay”, was chosen after considerable deliberation and was exactly the right one in that piece.
Nevertheless, the choice was clear: Behave or be gone.
After the disappointment of such an episode, one has to wonder when, where, and indeed, if it’s possible for complete truth and freedom to exist, even in this greatest of all countries, if not in newspapers, police stations, and courtrooms.
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