The Union Creek Journal

A Chronicle of Survival

February 16, 2015: Judging Jake

I’m no lawyer or judge but I think what we did with Jake was fair.  We’re all still coming to terms, I think, with what the new normal means, though.  What we did was difficult but it needed to be done.  My family members seem to be letting go of the way things were and grasping what the new normal means beyond our day-to-day survival.

Sure, we’re still dealing with “normal” stuff like the toilet paper shortage.  My proposal on that issue was not popular, I can tell you that.  The women, in particular, were dead set against individual rations.  Their premise was that they required more toilet paper than men.  I pushed back – gently.  Did they really need more toilet paper than men or was that simply a remnant of the past burned into their brains?

The toilet paper discussion was interesting and … telling.  It demonstrated the extent to which most of us still hold onto what I’ll call the old ways.  None of the women wanted to talk about why they needed more toilet paper.  That was not a subject for polite company.

Are we still polite company these days?  I mean, we regularly take the lives of people around us.  We pass sentence on people we’ve known for years.  Is there still room for politeness in the new normal?  I guess there’s not need to be impolite … until there’s a need to be impolite.

In the end, we agreed on individual toilet paper rations.  The women and female children were allotted a ration one and a half times that of the men and D.J.  We also agreed that toilet paper trade or barter would be allowed.  Finally, we discussed alternatives to toilet paper.  Eventually, it will run out.  Eventually, we will have to go back to doing what our ancestors did before the invention of toilet paper.

I can remember when I was a kid.  We used the outhouse that still sits behind the farm house here on this property.  In the outhouse there were always several newspapers and a bucket of corn cobs – not as comfy or absorbent as toilet paper, but adequate for the most part.

I brought up the fact that, in the Middle East, it is quite common to use your left hand to clean up after you’ve finished your toilet business.  That comment drew a lot of “ewww’s” and “yuck’s” and “nasty’s”.

Telling.

We conducted Jake’s trial as much like a pre-crash trial as we could.  He was offered a defense “lawyer”.  He declined and chose to represent himself.  My father-in-law was appointed the judge.  My brother, Joseph, was appointed as the prosecuting attorney.  Every adult, over the age of eighteen, was a part of the jury – including Jake’s wife and daughter, Jamie, who had recently turned eighteen.  I think we gave Jake every opportunity for a fair trial that we could.

Mutiny is typically a military crime.  The Uniform Code of Military Justice says that a person found guilty of mutiny shall be punished by death.

The primary question to be answered was, “Did Jake commit mutiny?”

Joseph gave opening arguments for the prosecution.  His argument was brief.  Regardless of how informal our structure of authority was, Jake had attempted to usurp it by force.  That constituted mutiny.  Virtually everyone present in the room had directly witnessed Jake’s attempt to take control by force and the resulting deaths of four individuals.  There was no question of fact.  Jake was guilty.  Furthermore, if Jake was found guilty of mutiny, he should also be tried for murder in the deaths of his fellow mutineers.

Of course, Jake argued that he did not commit mutiny.  As he read from a note pad, Jake argued that I had assumed my position of authority without proper authorization.  (There had been no election.)  Therefore, his attempt to remove me from authority was not mutiny but rather, for the good of the group.  I had demonstrated a predilection for violence.  I had committed crimes of torture and murder.  Jake argued that he was simply doing what the American Colonists had done when they revolted against the tyrant, King George.  He was a revolutionary and I deserved to be overthrown.

Jake had nothing to say about the deaths of his accomplices.  I honestly don’t think he anticipated that argument from Joseph.

As much as I dislike Jake, I have to admit that it was a good argument.  In fact, it was probably the only argument that made any sense.  Whether that was what was actually going through his head when he marched into the yard with four Mexican gang members or not … hard to say.

Joseph called those present in the yard when Jake arrived with the four Mexicans as witnesses.  The witnesses included my brothers Levi and Sam, Terry, my dad, Miriam and me.  Each of us agreed upon the key facts of what happened on the fourteenth.  Joseph also asked us, based on Jake’s opening statement, about our authority structure.  The views were interesting to say the least.

Everyone agreed that we didn’t need elections to establish leadership within a family.

Most also agreed that, in the event that the group grew larger, there might come a point at which elections would be required.  Almost no one agreed on the group size or make-up that would require elections.

Some thought that elections might be necessary once non-family members were brought into the group.  I didn’t like the sound of that since Jake could argue that our family had brought his family into the group, thus necessitating elections to establish leadership.

More of us thought that, in addition to bringing in non-family members, the group would need to grow to a certain size before elections would be necessary.

Joseph was smart enough to ask whether or not we had included the Gunters in the decision-making process.  We had only allowed the Gunters to participate in our decision-making process twice – once when we decided what to do with Daniel (one of the members of their group) and once when we decided to attack the National Guard armory (because we asked Jake to join us).  I think this helped establish that the Gunters truly were not a part of our group.  They lived on property that we didn’t own.  They did not participate in our day-to-day decision-making.  They were our neighbors.  We helped them.  But, they were not a part of our authority structure.  We only allowed them a say in our decisions when our decisions directly involved them.

Jake, of course, tried to turn everything around in his cross-examination.  He tried to play up the fact that we had “taken them in” and involved them, to an extent, in our democratic decision-making process.  He led the witnesses but Joseph didn’t know enough to object.  I’m not sure Anders would have known exactly where the line between fair questions and leading questions was either.  None of us are legal experts.

After Jake’s cross-examination was finished, Joseph rested his case.

Jake’s only witnesses were his wife and two daughters.  Since they were not present when Jake marched into our yard, they could not dispute the facts established by Joseph’s witnesses.  Instead of trying to dispute the facts, Jake continued down the line of questioning that he had started in his cross-examination.  He also asked them about my leadership capabilities and the “crimes” that I had committed.

It was obvious that the Gunter women were uncomfortable as witnesses.  They loved their husband and father and wanted to protect him but they knew he was a hot-head and had probably crossed the line marching into our yard with four other armed men.  They squirmed in the witness chair.  They apologized with their eyes.  But, in the end, they toed Jake’s line.

Joseph is a pretty smart guy.  He drew things out of the Gunter women that they may never have acknowledged to themselves.  It became obvious that Jake abused the women in his family – at least emotionally, if not physically – and that his temper and hatred for me were really at the root of his desire to overthrow our “authority structure”.

I’m really glad Joseph and I spent all the time that we did debating.  It was really kind of fun to watch him question the Gunters.

Every one of the Gunter women ended up crying by the end of their cross-examination.  Most of it didn’t seem staged.  Although, I remembered Karla’s ability to use her eyes ….

It was a little strange having witnesses who also were a part of the jury.  We thought it was the only fair way to decide Jake’s fate, though.  We thought it was fair to have everyone, of the age of majority, involved in making such a major decision.

Deliberation was painful.  The Gunter women knew the likely penalty if Jake was found guilty.  I think they also knew in their heart-of-hearts that he was guilty.  It was gut-wrenching to watch them struggle with the dilemma of protecting their husband or father or doing what they knew was right.

Because virtually every member of the jury had some level of personal involvement in the case, we decided that a unanimous vote was not required to convict.  At the outset of deliberations, we established 80% as the number that would decide between a conviction and an acquittal.  Joseph and Anders both abstained from participating in the jury.  We, of course, did not allow Jake to participate in the jury either.

You may have already done the math.  We had nine Johnsons and two Gunters on the jury.  After we deliberated for about an hour, we took a vote.  Nine-to-two to convict.  Not really a surprise but a very somber moment, nonetheless.  As I looked around the table, I was confident everyone else had the same feeling in the pit of their stomach that I had.

We were about to cross a line … about to pass judgment on a man who some of us had known for decades.  In all likelihood, we were about to sentence him to death.  There were no extenuating circumstances to excuse Jake’s behavior.  He was motivated by nothing more than a deep-seated loathing for me and a confrontational nature.

It seems odd that a man more than fifty years of age would allow his baser instincts to drive him to the point where he would try to “take over” a family – not even his own – with threats of violence.  It seems odd that he would involve strangers … gang members who had nothing to do with the situation … who were nothing more than mercenaries.

Then again, much the same thing has happened on larger and smaller scales since the beginning of time.  In the Bible’s first recorded murder, Cain killed his own brother Abel motivated by nothing more than jealousy.  Brutus killed his close friend, Caesar, motivated by nothing more than the fear that Caesar would declare himself king, ending Rome’s democracy.  (OK, it’s a fictional work but the principle applies.)  Hitler attempted to eradicate an entire race primarily because he misunderstood Social Darwinism.  Hitler felt that the Jews were inferior and represented a risk to the survival of his own race as a result.  Why didn’t anyone stop him before it was too late?

Why have men allowed their fears, their hatred or their confusion to move them to horrible acts throughout history?  Why have we, as a human race, failed to learn and apply the lessons of those acts?  Why did we so recently sit idly by as humanity’s baser instincts of greed and jealousy drove the whole world over a cliff like so many lemmings?  Why did we never clear the monkey cage, so to speak, and start afresh and anew?  Was it ignorance?  Was it laziness?  Was it the fear of change or of the unknown?

Why did we place Jake in front of a firing squad and take his life for attempting an insurrection?  Was it simply because we didn’t know any better?

Did we make Jake’s wife a widow because we, as humans, just couldn’t come up with a better way to deal with a problem?  Are we that simple?

I have so little hope for the future.

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33 thoughts on “February 16, 2015: Judging Jake

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  1. IS DISOBEDIENCE SIMPLY AN INEFFECTUAL ACT? BY STEVE FINNELL

    When Christians continue in a sinful lifestyle are they risking losing their inheritance in the kingdom of God or are they simply obeying the command of Satan?

    Ephesians 5:1-7 Therefore be followers of God as dear children………..3 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; 4 neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting , but rather giving thanks. 5 For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes on the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them. (NHJV)

    Is unrepentant disobedience to God’s commands followed by God’s wrath, or is it simply the ineffectual acts of following the commands of Satan ?

    IS OBEYING JESUS BY BEING IMMERSED IN WATER SIMPLY AN INEFFECTUAL ACT OF OBEDIENCE?

    Jesus said “…and is baptized will be saved…” (Mark 16:16–NKJV))

    Is obeying the apostle Peter’s command to be baptized simply an ineffectual act of obedience?

    Peter said “.. and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…” (Acts 2:38—NKJV)

    Is obeying God’s commands simply the right thing to do or does it affect men’s salvation?

    Does God forgive the sins of the unrepentant? Does God forgive the sin of a murder if that person continues to kill people on a daily bases until he dies? You make the call!
    Posted by Steve Finnell at 7:26 AM No comments:
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    YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY BLOG. http://steve-finnell.blogspot.com

  2. The Ghost of Kim Jong-Il on said:

    So the Cane and Able murders in the bible are factual historical events, while the murder of Julius Ceasar is fiction (it really happened)… Then in the same paragraph you mention Hitlers lack of understanding “Social Darwinism”. That whole paragraph just seems a little strange to me. I can understand someone, especially someone from NE, on a farm, to be a bible-thumping church goer, and in fact that gives it some more beliveability, but saying the Julius Ceasar murder is fiction seems odd… Also I wouldnt think they would believe in any kind of “Darwinism”…

    • The Shakespearean work about Ceasar (Julius Caesar) is fiction … based on fact. Admittedly, the reference to Shakespeare’s work is subtle (by referring to the act as a work of fiction), so it could be easily missed.

      As far as someone who believes the Bible is true not believing in social Darwinism … perhaps you’ve written “bible-thumping” Nebraskans off as far less educated and complex than they actually are. Of course, that attitude was addressed earlier in the book.

  3. i beleive a uniform set of rules is always necessary- but the punishment must 1) be swift and 2) it must fit the crime.
    our society suffers from a lack of both. taking too long and delaying punishment minimizes the effect on the viewing public and just separating an offender from the general populus is hardly a fit for any crime.

  4. Mike on said:

    Kelly,
    We will just have to agree to disagree, as this isn’t about our opinions or beliefs. We both know where the other stands.

  5. Kelly on said:

    I just started reading this journal last night, and have arrived at this story. Enjoying it so far.

    A couple of thoughts on the “trial”:

    1) Counsel is allowed to ask leading questions on cross examination.

    2) In a criminal trial, a 100% jury finding is required to pass a judgment of guilt. I found it questionable that Dave would try to be inclusive of Jake’s family members by allowing them to be part of the jury, then immediately render their votes null by declaring a mere 80% to be sufficient to find guilt. What he was really saying was, “only my family members matter; if not all of my family votes for guilt, then that’s that. If they do – then that’s that.” I don’t want to get into the philosophical question of whether that’s what we really do currently (we do), and I recognize that their situation is pretty limited so they have to make do. But the fact remains – the jury was rigged from the start.

    3) Witnesses are NEVER, EVER allowed to be part of a jury. Period. Not even with the limitations that Dave’s group is facing.

    4) Considering the limitations, IMHO it would have been better to go with a hybrid of a tribunal/bench trial. Decide on 3 or 5 of the group’s “elders” that did NOT witness Jake’s actions, then have a group decision as to what possible punishments were available for varying findings of guilt, then put the witnesses through their questions, then the “group of judges” retire in solitude (chambers) to discuss the trial privately. They and they alone decide on guilt or innocence and the resulting punishment, if any. Their finding is absolute, and not discussed or debated.

    5) Every state has a surprisingly strict list of Rules of Criminal Procedure & Rules of Civil Procedure. These rules dictate the administration of criminal and civil justice – it’s the entire basis on how a defendant will be treated, how the trial will go, what counsel can and can’t do, how to object if counsel over-steps, and the rules on how to process judgment. These rules, ironically, are why people usually have a mental picture of “slickster lawyers” – with all the resulting comments on how lawyers are pulling “lawyer tricks” to “hide” things from the jury, etc… In reality, these things are decided LONG beforehand (the rules also dictate with a high degree of specifity what evidence can be brought before a jury). It’s kind of funny that people think of lawyers as “being slick” or “shady” when the fact is that these rules have been promulgated over many decades, based upon countless trials, among generally learned, educated & wise men and women who were trying to come up with as fair a system as possible for all involved. It may not always SEEM that way, but it is nontheless.

    The reason I bring up the Rules of Criminal or Civil Procedure is because even after a crash as described in this story, it would still be very easy to find a copy in most local libraries. If Dave and/or his group were truly interested in preserving fair legal justice, you might want to have them “stumble” across the rules when scavenging for learning materials at a library somewhere.

    Just a thought.

    • Good thoughts, Kelly. The point of the entry was to highlight the common person’s ignorance of the legal system as well as (potentially) the failure of a man who wants to be fair but struggles to do so in light of the circumstances. Furthermore, the entry, I think, highlights the consequences of that ignorance and attempted fairness as (potentially) a warning for those who might be preparing for the fall of society.

      • Kelly on said:

        Oh yes – I got that. And, as such, I thought it was a brilliant entry. My points were not so much to critique as they were to possibly open up a direction the group MIGHT go in the future – in the end, it’s not my story; I’ll happily follow it whatever direction it takes…

        😀

      • Thanks for commenting. I’m glad you contributed your thoughts.

    • IMO, the Rules of Criminal or Civil procedure is a part of the reason the country is in the shape it is in. Just maybe if we didn’t bend over backwards to protect those that do wrong we wouldn’t have so many doing wrong repeatedly. A lot of legal Bs to many times

      • Kelly on said:

        It’s not about bending over backwards to protect those that do wrong.

        It’s about bending over backwards to ensure that before someone is punished, you make sure (or as sure as you can be) that the person you’re thinking of punishing is the RIGHT person, and that the punishment fits the crime.

        YOU may think it’s a lot of legal BS, but the rule of law is the underpinning to any civilized society. For that rule to work, it must be applied fairly and evenly to all of those who would be affected by it. Otherwise, it’s simply the rule of the jungle – whatever the 800 lb. gorilla decides. If you fail to ensure that you’re punishing the right person, not only do you commit a horrible injustice an innocent person, but you compound the wrong YOU committed by failing to indentify the wrongdoer, punishing them for their crime, and deterring them or others from doing the same thing again. THAT is why a uniform set of rules are necessary. The “well I know who did it, so let’s just string them up!” mentality is grossly immoral and inhuman (notice I didn’t say inhumane – I meant animalistic).

        The fact is, people get things wrong all the time. Emotions, jaded or incorrect memories or impressions of an event, personal philosophies, religious beliefs – everyone is different in their motivations, and all of these things come together to influence what THEY think is fair justice. That’s all fine and good if YOU’RE the 800 lb. gorilla. But what do the other people around you think about your distribution of justice? How long do you think you can remain the 800 lb. gorilla after you’ve pissed off enough people around you that have watched you distribute YOU’RE brand of “justice?”

        Further, let’s say you never get to the top of the banana hill – that you’re just a cog in the wheel, as by definition almost everyone is (or will be). How will you feel when there are no hard-and-fast rules about how justice is to be distributed, when someone casts their emotionally-torn and mentally-scarred eye towards you and proclaims, “that’s the guy! THAT’S the guy that did it!”

        It’s not about “protecting the guilty.” It’s about ensuring uniformity and fairness – because when it comes down to it, when someone does someone else wrong – there really are usually only two people that know EXACTLY what happened. You will almost never be one of those two people (at least I hope not). Why should anyone just take your opinion that, based upon solely YOUR experience and intuition, you know how justice should be distributed in any given situation?

        I’m pretty sure I know what you’re response to this is already.

      • Our Founders (PBUT) understood mob justice, and they understood the sort of restraint necessary to be put on those who wield it.

        They created a system based on the idea that it’s better to let many guilty go free than to punish one innocent.

        They were 100% RIGHT IMHO!

        The problem we have is not with the “legal BS” but rather with our lack of REAL punishment, and our handling of convicts and “ex-cons.”

        First the convicts: Chain-gangs. Hard labor. NO TV, NO “weight room” — you WILL earn your keep!

        As for ex-cons? Once their sentence is over, their debt is PAID!
        All this “can’t vote, can’t own a firearm…” and so on is WRONG.
        If he can’t be trusted with a firearm, he SHOULD NOT BE OUT OF PRISON!

  6. Michael Price on said:

    David is so worried about remaining human and keeping justice, in philosophical terms the mere fact that he considers and ponders these things means there is hope for his vision of the future.

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