News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Liz Ciancone

May 14, 2013

LIZ CIANCONE: Courts see a different appearance than cops

TERRE HAUTE — Have you ever noticed the transformation between the arrest of an accused lawbreaker and the first appearance in court?

Granted that mug shots taken at the time of arrest may not truly represent the usual appearance of the accused, but it is interesting that an individual who looked menacing is transformed into a clean-shaven citizen in time to appear before the court.

The change of clothing is especially interesting. The arrestee is clad in everyday garb but appears before the judge and jury clad in a suit and tie. I suppose the attorney for the defense is eager to impress upon the jury that the client is a model citizen. Of course this means eliminating any hint that we are dealing with an enemy of society.

I can hardly wait to see what they will do to make the alleged “Boston Bombers”, or, rather the surviving brother, into a worthy typical young American. This is the young man who, allegedly, ran a car over his wounded brother. I am willing to bet — but not a lot of money — that he will not appear in court wearing a baseball hat and sports jacket with a backpack slung over his shoulder. The memory of those on-site cameras is too fresh.

Not a lot can be done with his rather foreign appearance, but that should not be held against him. Still, he will probably appear with his hair trimmed and his garments will be clean and neat. Do young students even own a suit these days?

In fairness, the young man who allegedly shot up a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., has been pictured sitting in court wearing the orange overall handed out to prisoners. Is this reverse psychology? Instead of “dress-them-up-to-get-them-off” maybe this is the way to go if you hope for a “not guilty by reason of insanity” verdict?

The more affluent among the accused probably already own a suit and tie as well as a comb and a razor. Surely an O.J. Simpson wouldn’t go to court wearing a football jersey unless he hoped to sway the vote of a football fan on the jury who remembers the glory years. I never did understand that second trial on a different charge, but I only know enough law to stay out of trouble myself.

The young man in Boston has some rough days ahead. I can’t believe that a complete makeover would be of much help. After all, it was tough enough to find a place willing to bury his brother.

Liz Ciancone is a retired Tribune-Star reporter. Send e-mail to opinion@tribstar.com.

 

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