There is a difference between justice and law. The two are imperfectly paired, as one is an idealized concept of equity while the other is a definition of permissible or impermissible behavior. Law is the mechanical structure that we create to achieve justice. But as human beings we are fraught with natural imperfection and our laws suffer for our faults, often falling somewhere short of justice’s ideal.
Luis Ramirez has been dead for almost a year. He died in a hospital, the victim of a severe beating that his body was not able to withstand. He left behind two young children and a fiance. On the first of May, the young men who administered that beating were acquitted of murder in a Pennsylvania court, found guilty of no more than simple assault. They had been drinking the night of the incident. Six teens. All white. High school heroes of the local football team. Luis Ramirez was accompanied only by the young sister of his fiance. Insults were exchanged. A fight broke out. The fight stopped for long enough that Ramirez made a phone call to a friend for help. The fight resumed. It was nearly over when the friend arrived, brought to a close when Ramirez was kicked in the head as he lay on the ground. The six white teens fled the scene and Luis Ramirez was unconscious, foaming at the mouth.
Police eventually arrived on the scene, but did not pursue the reported assailants. With Ramirez on his way to a hospital in an ambulance, the police in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania thought it was of greater importance to frisk the friends that had answered his last phone call, and to search their vehicle for weapons. On the other hand, the teenage boys that ran from the scene were able to go about their lives for almost two weeks before being arrested. As revealed in last month’s trial, the first day of those two weeks allowed the boys to meet and to concoct a story to bolster their defense.
The foreman of the jury that acquitted these young men has made public statements that his co-jurors were predisposed to a verdict of “not guilty” against the defendants, and that the reason they were predisposed was because the defendants were white and the victim was not. Perhaps I have not yet mentioned that all 12 jurors were white.
One of the fundamental principles of the legal system in our country is the assumption of innocence until guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The same jury foreman that believes his co-jurors were racist and impartial also believes that the prosecution failed to overcome that doubt, and his 11 colleagues agreed. Sadly, the ghost of Luis Ramirez could not take the stand and point a ghoulish finger at each of his attackers. So instead, the bigot-riddled jury got to hear a lot of things that we have also heard from mainstream media outlets. Things that make an attempt to demean the character of the dead man, and somehow make him complicit in his own death.
Luis Ramirez was a 25-year-old illegal immigrant in the company of a 15-year-old “girlfriend” at the time he was attacked. This 15-year-old was not his fiance. He had two children out of wedlock with a white woman, who also had a third child that was not fathered by Ramirez. No one knows for sure if the white kids began insulting Ramirez, or if he made a provocative statement towards them first. The fight could have possibly ended before the immigrant received fatal blows, but as he walked away from his assailants, further insults caused him to charge back at them and resume the fight.
Try and tell me that you don’t see what this information is supposed to provide you. Subtly, or perhaps subliminally, these details are meant to paint Luis Ramirez as a freeloading border-crosser who came to our country to steal jobs and not pay taxes. He was a lecherous, miscegenational pedophile who seemed oblivious of birth control. He didn’t have the good sense to walk away from a fight when he could have, and suffered the consequences.
These are the details that we’ve heard about Luis Ramirez, and these are the details that the jury heard also. When you already have a prejudiced audience, highlighting the most stereotypical details of this man’s life are not going to help convince anyone to see things differently. It matters not that Ramirez had been working as a farm-hand in our country, picking lettuce and strawberries, for about six years. Only that he didn’t have the legal documentation that would allow him to do so. It didn’t matter that his work and his day-to-day life in Shenandoah contributed to the community. It only mattered that he was not on the radar of the IRS. And, yes, I have read multiple versions of Ramirez’s relationship to the girl he was with, and versions of her relationship to his fiance, and varying stories of whether the fiance was or was not his fiance, and multiple versions of the paternity of her children, but all of those things are only meant to conjure puritanical discomfort over someone’s sexual activities. It’s a smokescreen and a diversion meant to obscure the fact that a man was murdered.
The law of the United States is actually designed to protect the accused. The law worked in this case. These teenage boys were allowed to stand before a jury of their (all white) peers, and the burden was on the prosecution to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that they were guilty of purposely ending the life of Luis Ramirez because he was not a white American. The prosecution did not overcome that burden, and thus the jury was only convinced that the accused were guilty of assaulting someone.
And, they would likely tell you in hushed tones, that damned illegal Mexican had a beating coming to him anyway.
The Constitution enumerates several principles intended to preserve justice for all, while at the same time, laying the foundation of law. The 5th amendment provides due process. The 6th guarantees trial by jury and advice of legal counsel. The 14th amendment provides some details concerning citizenship, but also clearly states that no State shall deny any person within its jurisdiction equal protection under the law.
This must include undocumented immigrants.
Luis Ramirez was not granted the 14th amendment rights that were his due. Justice has not been served. Forget the interpretation of the law minced and portioned by the defense attorneys. The intent of the law – to serve justice – demands that these young men must pay for their crime. Their use of racial epithets demonstrates a hostility toward Latinos. Their overwhelming numbers demonstrate an intent to do grave harm. Delivering a kick to a man’s head and running away, as far as I’m concerned, demonstrates a willingness to cause death, as it certainly demonstrates an indifference towards his continued life. And corroboration amongst the group a day after the murder demonstrates an intent to manipulate the investigation and the legal process to the detriment of justice. They must not go unpunished for any of these crimes.
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund is petitioning the U.S. Department of Justice to open a Federal investigation over the racially-motivated murder of Luis Ramirez. I am making a direct appeal to all who read this. Sign that petition. I’m doing it. I’m doing it because I feel that every person on this planet deserves life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; not just those of us lucky enough to have been born in a land that promises it. I’m not Hispanic, not a friend or relative or Luis Ramirez, not an enemy of white kids or the State of Pennsylvania. I’m just a writer, dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Sign that petition. Do it now.