Consider this the last philosophical question we’ll entertain on Memomas Day, because after the Nunes memo drops, it will be all utilitarian all the time. Even this moment from the sentencing hearing of former USA Gymnastics doctor and serial child molester Larry Nassar might come down to utilitarianism, too. Wouldn’t taxpayers have saved considerable money had the judge taken up this plea from the father of two Nassar victims to get “five minutes in a locked room with this demon“? Or had the bailiffs moved just a wee bit slower?
WATCH: The father of victims of ex-USA Gymnastic doctor Larry Nassar lunges at Nassar in court after saying to judge, “I would ask you to as part of the sentencing to grant me 5 minutes in a locked room with this demon.” https://t.co/KltZISbi1m pic.twitter.com/Am0N4gZzsT
— CBS News (@CBSNews) February 2, 2018
Two of Margraves’ daughters had just finished giving victim impact statements in Eaton County Court when the father cursed at Nassar and was admonished by the judge for using profanity.
“I would ask you to grant me five minutes in a room with this demon,” Margraves asked the judge.
“You know I can’t do that,” she answered.
That’s when Margraves suddenly ran toward the front of the courtroom. Court officers wrestled him to the ground as he shouted at them, “What if this happened to you guys?”
Great question — and one that has been on the minds of parents and grandparents of student athletes since this scandal first broke open in September 2016. The anger, rage, betrayal, and the shame felt by these parents must be overwhelming, the latter of which comes from their inability to see the danger and protect their children from it — even though there was no way for them to do so. The instinct to protect the family is so deeply embedded within us that it goes beyond rational and dispassionate analysis.
That is, however, why humans devised justice systems as part of civilization. We exchange familial vengeance and blood debts for public punishments. None of these work perfectly, although the US has one of the best and most reliable of these systems in the world. And in this case, the justice system worked — Nassar will never set a free foot outside of prison again, and his stay in the penal system will be both long and unpleasant. The judge didn’t allow Margraves “five minutes in a room with the demon” because it negates the reason for our justice system in the first place — to ensure justice is done rather than revenge, and to prevent endless cycles of violence.
The entirely understandable rage Margraves expressed today should be directed instead at other systems. Nassar’s done, but there are still butts that need kicking — at the Karolyi Ranch, USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University, and the US Olympic Committee, which sat on its hands for a year after finding out about Nassar. There is a lot more work to do to get justice and to ensure that this never happens again. As satisfying as it might be in the moment, Margraves’ charge at Nassar doesn’t do anything to advance those causes.
Still, I’d be hard-pressed to convict Margraves of a crime here, even if the bailiffs hadn’t gotten to him in time. In fact, I can’t imagine a prosecutor bringing charges at all in this instance, given the circumstances of the trial and the lack of injury to anyone. But let’s say the district attorney feels it necessary to emphasize the consequences of this kind of assault in a courtroom, which is after all a serious matter, if only to discourage anyone else from seeking a little revenge against a defendant. Would you vote to convict? Take the poll, but I’m pretty sure how this one will turn out: