Outsider on the Inside
Reflections on our society by an Israeli born filmmaker

A Sense of Justice?

A week after our launch and discussions have already begun on our Forum.  I received an email from Rais, Mark’s second victim (see this week’s Close Up). He forgave Mark many years ago, he said, but took issue with Mark ‘s attributing his crimes to September 11th. “I know from the video that after he shot Mr. Patel he demanded money,” Rais wrote, “tried to open the cash register and threatened if Mr. Patel didn’t open it, he would blow out his brains. But I read a different story on the site.”

Rais refers to the security camera tape showing Mark killing Mr. Patel. We will play this security video in the coming weeks, as well as clips from our interview with the prosecutor. The tape was used as part of the prosecution’s legal strategy to present the case to the jurors as a robbery gone wrong. This elevated Mark’s crime to capital murder, punishable by death. What exactly was Mark’s motivation, along with the prosecution’s success in achieving the death sentence, merits a separate discussion on this blog in future.  I found, however, the second part of Rais ‘s email far more distressing and revealing.

“I went to see Alka Patel (the widow of Mark’s last victim) couple of weeks ago,” Rais writes. “I was very upset and felt pain in my heart by seeing her condition, working seven days a week, losing memory, extremely stressed, no time for the kids, and her daughter was staying with her in the gas station while she was working there…It’s been seven years since 9/11 and not a single charity or humanitarian organization came forward to see how we, the victims and the families, are surviving! There is no Jessie Jackson, Al Sharpton, Latino leader or any renowned community leader, who always raise their voice against any kind of discrimination against their people. Since, we do not belong to their group, who cares?”

Reading it and looking into the issue further, I realized that we failed to understand that several crimes were committed in Texas after September 11th. First there were the obvious, those of Mark Stroman, now awaiting execution. But the other crime that we never discuss is the refusal of any state or any Federal authority or charity to extend any help to the victims of these hate crimes. This offense is less known and far less spectacular than Stroman’s. But I do believe it is as important and far more revealing about the society in which we live.

Anya Cordell, an activist who launched the Campaign for Collateral Compassion, described in last week’s Close Up the response to her failed efforts to solicit compensation for the victims of all post September 11th hate crimes as ranging from ” indifferent to hostile.”  This shameful inertness toward the fate of the victims stands in stark contrast to the state of Texas’ highly efficient pursuit of Mark’s execution. A federal judge accepted the State’s argument to deny Mark’s Federal appeal. (Read more in Mark’s death row diary). The road to his execution has just become shorter.

The death penalty is usually defended as providing the victims with a sense of justice. Alka Patel told me in no uncertain term that, as a religious person, she opposes the death penalty and never asked the prosecutor to demand it. Delivering justice for Alka and the other victims is far more complicated than simply executing Mark Stroman. Recognition by the state, or any other agency, of their victimhood might have gone a long way to alleviate their suffering, help heal their emotional wounds and give them a more meaningful sense of justice. A brief Goggle search I did reveals that millions of dollars went unspent by the various funds established to aid 9/11 victims. Yet not one charitable organization, neither the Federal or State government in Texas and elsewhere saw it fit to include in the list those few individuals who, in the days post September 11th, were victimized by a rash of violent hate crimes. So it is not due to lack of money that not a penny reached Alka and the other victims.

You can call the future execution of Mark Storman any name you wish, but do not call it justice. It might be one more crime to be committed in this case while the victims continue to await true justice.

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