Anybody at any time can be made to be a murderer. I don’t say that with an iota of hyperbole. With a quick dip into the deep waters of the criminal injustice system, one sees how easily it has happened and how easily it could happen.
Take for example the case from the latest Generation Why Podcast by friends Justin and Aaron. On June 30, 2002, in a small town in Midlothian, Scotland, a 14-year-old girl, Jodi Jones, was brutally murdered. Her throat was slashed so bad, she was nearly decapitated. In addition, she was stripped naked and bound by her own clothes.
The narrative is that Jodi was grounded by her family for being caught with weed. Her boyfriend, Luke Mitchell, was known for being a weed dealer at the school. On June 30, 2003, she was allowed back out of the house, texted Luke on such an occasion and left the house to go meet him.
Not only did Jodi’s mother forbid her from walking in the woods alone, but normally, Luke and Jodi would make sure to meet together. But Luke said there was never a clear plan to meet, only that they said they should meet. So, living with his mother and older brother, it was Luke’s turn to make dinner and he did.
In that six hour-ish period when Jodi left the house and when the mother, Luke and others sounded the alarm about her missing, she was killed.
Luke joined in on the search party with his German Shepherd, which alerted on Jodi’s body on the other side of a six-foot stone wall.
From that moment on, the police tunnel visioned onto Luke as the killer. Aside from the fact that the police tend to do that when it comes to the spouse of someone murdered, they also think it was suspicious that he found the body, arguing that Luke knew where the body was rather than the dog alerting on it.
The other “evidence”? An eyewitness who said they vaguely saw someone with a jacket in the woods and then later, in a forced mugshot lineup (meaning, the police led the witness on in my opinion), Luke was identified as the person wearing the jacket. In addition, Luke’s older brother “changed” his story, saying he was in his room the whole night, so he can’t verify that his brother was at the house. His mother maintains that he was, though.
And the other “evidence”? Luke being a known weed dealer and that he was supposedly into Marilyn Manson. If that sounds bizarre, you have to consider two things: 1.) Reefer madness is a real phenomenon among police, prosecutors and judges, imbuing marijuana with far more nefariousness than it allows, but hint: reefer madness is not real! and 2.) The hysteria around Marilyn Manson was something we’ve memory-holed as a society, but it was a real thing, especially in the wake of the Columbine shooting in 1999. Add to that the general hysteria over Satanic killings, which hit their hysteria peak in the 1980s but still lingered here (people thought this killing was Satanic in nature because of how brutal it was).
That’s it. No, seriously, that’s it. As Justin and Aaron state, this doesn’t even reach the level of suspicious circumstantial evidence. The police have nothing. They don’t have the jacket an eye witness flagged. They don’t have the murder weapon. They don’t have DNA. And the “motive” they’ve crafted seems to be out of thin air. That is, that Luke was cheating on Jodi, she found out and in a confrontation, Luke killed her. But there’s no evidence of that.
So, not only do the police have nothing even circumstantial (normally, eyewitness testimony would be considered circumstantial, but how can one even say the eyewitness testimony here amounts to that?), but they’ve invented evidence to craft a motive narrative.
And as usual, there are poor police practices presented in this case. First and foremost, that the police didn’t protect the crime scene and Jodi’s body from the weather conditions. Her body was left out in the rain for hours uncovered. Womp womp on uncovering better DNA evidence.
Secondly, it seemed clear from Jodi’s wounds that there were defensive wounds, i.e, she fought back and there was a struggle. Between that and the level of cutting to her throat, you would expect the perpetrator to have cuts and abrasions on their body, as well as be covered in blood. Neither of these conditions applied to Luke.
Third, and perhaps most egregiously, Luke, who again, was only 14 at the time of the killing, was questioned by the police, despite his (smart) pleas to have his mother and a lawyer present. According to Scotland policy, if someone is over the age of 8, a parent or guardian must be told that their child is in police custody and then must be present for the police interview. That didn’t happen here.
Not shockingly, between the police, prosecutors and the media maelstrom (making Luke seem like a Satanic monster), Luke was convicted and sentenced to prison for killing Jodi. Worse than that, he was 16-years-old by the time of that conviction and they convicted him as an adult. As a society, we both argue that children ought to be treated as children and protected as children, but then, when it comes to matters of life and death, we treat them like adults? It’s incoherent, but manifest throughout our criminal justice system.
Incidentally, he was convicted at 16 and it’s been 16 years of Luke in prison. In total, Luke has lost 18 years of his life because the police, prosecutors and media painted him as a Satanic monster who brutally killed his girlfriend. Any attempts at appealing his case have fallen on deaf ears with judges.
And something always worth keeping in mind with cases like this: Presuming (which I do heavily) Luke is innocent of this crime and has been erroneously caged for 16 years for the crime, that also means the real killer has absconded justice for 18 years. That means real justice has never been done in the name of Jodi.
The worst part of that reality? Police, prosecutors and even the media would rather be steadfast in their assurance that they have the right person than admit they messed up, ruined someone’s life and don’t actually have the real killer in custody.
That said, one minor thing I have to scoff at is that in 2013, Luke and his mother were both given lie detector tests, which they passed. But who cares one way or another? Lie detector tests are junk science. The fact that lie detectors are still being used and seen as valid in any way is absurd.
Scotland made Luke a murderer. Not because they proved he murdered anyone (especially beyond all reasonable doubt), but because they were nonetheless able to convict him for it. One of the scariest things about it is how easily cultural madness sublimates actual evidence and justice: The silliness around weed, the hysteria involving Marilyn Manson and so on.
But that’s my thoughts on the case. I welcome yours.