By Andres Gutman
In Westerns, or cowboy movies, justice was administered by Sheriffs who punched hard and shot straight. It was simple and satisfying; no lengthy trials with baffling verdicts; no slick lawyers, like O.J. Simpson's Johnny Cochrane mouthing aphorisms, like – you're innocent until proven broke. Satisfying as they may be, Westerns didn't really tell us much about justice. The Ox-Bow Incident stands out as an exception.
As men in a saloon hash over recent incidents of cattle rustling, they're told that a local rancher has just been shot. They presume that he's been killed by rustlers and, to find them, a posse is improvised. Eventually, three men are captured with cattle bearing the rancher's brand and a gun engraved with his name. The men say these were honestly purchased. No one believes them. A vote is taken to determine whether the men should be hung on the spot, or brought to trial. Most vote for hanging, so they can't escape through the courts.
The posse – now, a lynch-mob – ignores evidence contrary to the desired verdict. A condemned rustler's last words, in a letter to his wife, display deep sensibility that convinces a few in the lynch-mob (and everyone in the theatre audience) that such a man is unlikely to shoot a rancher and steal his cattle.
On its way back to town, the lynch-mob encounters the Sheriff and boasts of its deed. The Sheriff tells them, in response, that the rancher is recovering from gunshot wounds; that the shooter is under arrest; and that God better have mercy on you. You won't get any from me.
The lynch-mob returns to the saloon to drink in silence. Their leader
withdraws to his home where he's confronted by the son he hectored to participate: I'll have no female boys bearing my name.
Son condemns father: You knew they were innocent, but you were crazy to see them hanged. And to make me watch it. Father then commits suicide – to evade justice.
Ehatare almost had an Ox-Bow incident after an employee was fired.
Her friends assembled a posse to bring the guilty to justice. It solicited new members, for the governing foundation of Ehatare, with the aim of voting the Board out of office. It proposed an “alternative slate” for board-membership which was worrisome for its lack of relevant experience and alarming for its sinister intentions. This caused much anxiety among residents and their family members, who voted overwhelmingly to keep the existing Board.
The posse is now rejecting this result because some voted, by proxy, before the the “alternative slate” appeared as last-minute candidates. Is the posse rejecting proxy-voting, outright? Or, asserting that last-minute candidates can rightfully repeal the result of an orderly election if it doesn't go their way?
Justice is a Process – not a Result. (6)