2012-04-19 / Editorial

Scattering Seeds

BY JOHN A. MURPHY

This is for those who have been disappointed that they did not receive justice when they had a right to expect it.

The poet Bob Dylan poignantly captured the combined feeling of disappointment, anger and frustration in the lyrics to his powerful song, “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” which includes the following:

“In the courtroom of honor, the judge pounded his gavel,

“To show that all’s equal and that the courts are on the level,

“And that the strings in the books ain’t pulled and persuaded,

“And that even the nobles get properly handled,

“Once that the cops have chased after and caught ’em,

“And that the ladder of law has no top and no bottom,

“Stared at the person who killed for no reason,

“Who just happened to be feelin’ that way without warnin’,

“And he spoke through his cloak, most deep and distinguished,

“And handed out strongly, for penalty and repentance,

“William Z_____ with a six month sentence.”

Several necessary comments: First, in many cases, the real control over punishment may lie more with the prosecutor than with the judge. Second, Dylan’s song has to be listened to in its entirety to get the full impact of the outrage that he was then expressing. Third, the song is quite loosely based upon an actual incident. To put the actual facts of that incident into context, you may read about the event in both The New Yorker and Rolling Stone. Contact me if you want the citations.

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