Viewed The Conspirator tonight. It looks at the trial of the those involved in the conspiracy to assassinate President Lincoln. It focuses particularly on Mary Surratt – the first woman executed by the federal government.
Was she innocent? Was she guilty? From this distance, that seems hard to tell.
What the film, and my associated Web-browsing, has me thinking is that she probably did not receive a fair trial. She was not tried by a jury of her peers. She was tried by a military tribunal, not a civilian court. Hmm – why does that sound familiar?
It is possible that Mary Surratt was guilty. But it may also have been the case that she was sentenced and executed in effort to force her son to return and stand trial. It may have been the case that the authorities wanted to put the assassination behind the nation and move on. It may have been the case that revenge blinded those involved. Justice – and not restorative justice but retributive justice at that – may have been pushed aside by any number of factors. It has me wondering.
And wondering about this case has me wondering more broadly: how often does vengeance or expediency or fear or hate or prejudice or systems that privilege some and disadvantage some or other factors put justice in the back seat?
See you along the Trail.