Editor’s note: On Tuesday, we published Strong Female Lead: A Reassessment, Molly Miller’s meditation on the retrial of Andrea Moorer in the context of her experiences in the L.A. Criminal Courts of the past six months. Today, we present a special compilation Crime Story Podcast of the four articles by Molly which track the evolution of her perspective on issues of justice and abuse, along with the reflections offered below. You can read each of these pieces by clicking on the titles: Strong Female Lead, Facing Your Rapist in a Courtroom, I Hate Men and Strong Female Lead: A Reassessment.
I wrote Strong Female Lead seven months ago after watching the trial of Andrea Moorer, a sex worker who was accused of killing a John who abused her. Back then I believed that justice was connected to my internal compass; that my impassioned sense of right and wrong was more important that any penal code. My primal instincts endorsed revenge. Despite the evidence that Moorer ran over the victim with a car, I wanted the court to give her a free pass.
My logic was simple: he abused her and he got what he deserved.
Since that trial my views on the criminal justice system have drifted substantially, away from gut reaction towards intellectual reasoning. I realized there was a problem with aligning my conception of justice with my impassioned internal compass.
Justice is not about me. It’s about building a better civilization.
That civilization is diverse. I’m not a black man or a latinx woman or a trans man or an immigrant child. I don’t have the experience of growing up in the rural south or being on welfare or being elderly. If I base my conception of justice solely on what feels right to me then, despite my best intentions, my brand of “justice” will inevitably be infected by all of my unconscious bias and prejudices. So instead of my internal compass I’ve come to base my view of justice on equity.
We all should have fair and equal treatment under the law. We don’t – Exhibit A: racist gang enhancements, Exhibit B: money bail that penalizes the poor – but we should.
Unfortunately, equity is not exactly the most buzzworthy sentiment. It requires caution and research. When the pitch-forked mob is coming for Frakenstein’s monster who wants to be the villager to wave a legal tomb in the air and recommend a prudent trial?
While writing about The People vs. Stephen Houk I was forced to acknowledge that even the most abhorrent individuals have the right to an attorney and a fair trial. In a piece I penned about victim impact statements I grappled with how emotional statements made by victims of sexual abuse may actually infringe on a defendant’s constitutional rights. The latter piece, Facing Your Rapist in the Courtroom, was a tight-rope walk that required me to untangle my highly charged emotions about trauma I have experienced from the legal ramifications of that kind of emotion exhibited in a courtroom. By the time I wrote about Andrea Moorer’s retrial, the way I approached the criminal justice system had entirely transformed.
It wasn’t about me or my feelings, or what “he deserved,” but whether or not Moorer received a fair trial. While the proceeding might have been fair, I now saw the entirety of her circumstances as the root of inequity. The crime itself may have been committed but it could have been prevented if she had been given the tools to create a better life. If sex work was decriminalized then she wouldn’t have been forced to endanger herself on the streets. At the very least, if she had been exposed to a supportive diversion program after her first arrest for prostitution then maybe she could have found a safter occupation. Most importantly, if violent misogynists like Ruffino Anderson were socially maligned and prosecuted then this would not have happened.
The issues are systemic. They’re bigger than my internal compass.