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Disabled man dies after D.C. judge puts him in jail
A sick injustice system

October 8, 2004 | Page 4

Dear Socialist Worker,
A 10-day jail sentence and the death penalty seem like opposite ends of the criminal justice system. Not in Washington, D.C. Jonathan Magbie, a 27-year-old quadriplegic, died in the D.C. jail last week while serving a 10-day term imposed on him by D.C. Superior Court Judge Judith Retchin.

Magbie lost the use of his arms and legs as a child when he was hit by a drunk driver. He was confined to a wheelchair and needed special equipment even to breathe. Recently, he was convicted of marijuana possession. Given that it was his first offense, no one--not even the prosecutor--recommended that he receive jail time.

Judge Retchin disagreed and insisted on locking up Magbie. She sent him to the D.C. jail, an institution renowned for its unsanitary and inhumane conditions. Everyone knows that the D.C. jail is not a place to send anyone--much less someone who needs daily medical attention.

Now he's dead. Jonathan Magbie's family held a small protest outside the courthouse, holding signs that read, "Judge Retchin: How is your conscience? Can you sleep at night? Is this your first murder?"

They are absolutely right. Jonathan Magbie's blood is on Judge Retchin's hands. Any humane society would immediately throw this judge off the bench and prosecute her for Jonathan's death. But instead, she gets to continue to administer her sick notion of "justice"--which could actually earn her a promotion in the years to come.

For years, judges like Retchin have destroyed lives by handing down unjust, excessive sentences, hoping to score political points and further their careers by being "tough on crime." All this proves once again that this system, as socialist Eugene Debs said, is like a magic net that catches minnows, but lets the whales go free.
Michele Bollinger, Washington, D.C.

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