The system worked. That's what we are always told when a notorious legal case comes to an end that is unsatisfactory to many people.
But did it really? Or did money, power and politics have their way with us? Did we shove our dissatisfaction under the rug in the best way we could, and hope the next incident would turn out better?
I think the latter is what we do so we can sleep better at night. But sometimes the ghosts of the past stick around to haunt us. For me, there was the young black man who was my seatmate on a Greyhound bus on a snowy winter night 20 years ago.
The young man said he was from Chicago but had spent some time working in California. He had enough money to buy a truck and to tide him over when he went back home, which was where he wanted to be. Driving through Utah, he pulled off the highway to look for something to eat. A police car pulled up beside him and he was ordered out of his truck. Then two officers proceeded to search the truck, apparently thinking he might have drugs in it.
Finding none, they then demanded to see his billfold. When they discovered he had several hundred dollars they called for a backup police officer to come with a drug-sniffing dog. After the dog did its job, they told him it detected drugs and they confiscated his money and his truck.
Then, instead of arresting him, they took him back out to the highway, dropped him off at the wide of the road and told him he'd have to find his own way home. A truck driver took pity on him and gave him a ride.
He had spent the months since the day that happened trying to find out where his truck was, and who those policemen were who had robbed him. The reason he was on the bus that night was because he had managed to find an attorney in Utah who agreed to take his case. The attorney had located the truck and he was going to meet with him to see if he could identify it.
Did I believe his story? Yes, I did, because one of my sons had a similar experience traveling through Louisiana. He was singled out from a line of cars that were all going at the same speed. When he was pulled over his car was searched thoroughly for drugs, even to the point where the inner panels on the doors were moved. Adding insult to injury, his tools were used to do the job. After the job was finished and no drugs were found, he was left to put everything back together.
Another thing that made me believe the young bus passenger's story was something I read in a Denver Post article, about how in one town in Utah the property of drug dealers or suspected drug dealers was kept and sold without the proceeds being shared with federal drug agents, the way it is supposed to be. Even the D.A. in that town was in trouble.
I'll always wonder if that young man got his truck back, and if it was in good condition. As for his money, it was probably long gone. But I'm sure he learned some powerful lessons from his experience, the way my son did from his, which is that sometimes you can't trust anybody. Even the ones who are hired to protect us, or who claim they are protecting us. Like George Zimmerman was protecting a neighborhood from "criminals" like Trayvon Martin.