Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Chess and Checkers

Posted by: Blue

You know, the more I think about it; the more I learn about this new job of mine, the more I think about it as a game.

Now don't get me wrong.  I don't mean to imply that it's the kind of game that my kids play on their Playstation, or the kind you might host at a dinner party.  On the contrary, it's a game of life and death;  justice and injustice; crime and punishment; victim and criminal.  It matters everthing that we, the Good Guys, win the game.

The more I learn about the law and about prosecution and defense, I realize that criminals and their lawyers are playing games every day.  The difference seems to be that we, the Good Guys, know the true stakes (or maybe the bad guys know too but just don't care).  We know the devastation of lives after a robbery or a rape or a murder.  We live through the fallout of abuse and violence every day of our careers.  The overwhelming sense that I get when learning from the senior officers at academy, is that most of the time, when prosecuting the criminals and bad guys, you know, you KNOW that the person is guilty.  You KNOW that they have taken a life, or beaten their wife to within inches of death, or abused a child, or even so simply were travelling over the speed limit.  You KNOW.  There is little or no doubt in many of the cases.

The argument for the defense then becomes one of procedure or of infractions.  The argument becomes one of fundamental rights of the accused.  The argument becomes: "Did the officers complete their duties to the letter of the law?  Were all the I's dotted and T's crossed?"  The argument becomes technicalities and loopholes.

Now, there was a time in my life when I would have said that if someone was guilty, they should simply be locked-up and the key tossed.  No screwing around with "bullshit" loopholes or technicalities.  I still believe that the guilty must, and will pay, but I have begun to understand the role that rights and freedoms play in society on a deeper level.  The guaranteed rights and freedoms that we have here in Canada under our Charter of Rights and Freedoms are absolutely necessary to protect the innocent.  If they were simply thrown away when a police officer guaranteed on oath that a person was guilty, there would be no point in establishing those rights and freedoms.

The difficulty has always been that those freedoms can also become a refuge for the guilty if the officers who are bringing them to court have not executed their duties in a manner that upholds the law at a level that is above reproach.

I think that as I have sat and listened to stories, lectures and case law, I have begun to develop the sense that this game that we are playing isn't checkers.  It's not just a lazy, whimsical thing.  This is chess.  There are rules.  There are details.  There are strategies.  If I'm not playing every day at the top of my game, I lose.  And when I lose, the guilty go free.  It's a sobering thought.

But if it's had any effect on me, it has been to strengthen my resolve to play the best damn game of chess that I can, every day of my life.

Bring it on, defense lawyers.  I'll be ready.


  1. Oh Blue. I read this just as you were starting your 'Caveman' at 6:50 this morning. I sure do love you and I can see your resolve strengthen every day.

    (and I always thought I was a really good chess player until I met you...)

  2. You're right on with your analogy. And you have to keep that in mind when it becomes too real, and the job tries to erode your peace of mind. It's a game. And the ones that get away will always be back to play again.


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