Monday, August 10, 2009

Gay Man Released After Being Falsely Imprisoned For 21 Years For Molesting Children

The word justice is meaningless when you exist in this world as a marginalized body.  Those with privilege are often quick to state that one should not be afraid of the police, or the court system, if one has committed no crime but the experiences of oppressed bodies often include wrongful imprisonment and death at the hand of the criminal justice system.  The system is imperfect because it was designed by a people and a culture that are determined to privilege certain bodies.

image Bernard Baran was 19 and working as an assistant at a daycare center when he was accused by two parents of sexually molesting their little boy.  The fact that this drug addicted pair told the police that they “didn’t want no homo watching their kid,” should have sent off a warning flair to investigating officers. When he was arrested and his photo appeared in the newspaper, five other families came forward to allege abuse.

Despite the fact that a gay man is no more likely to abuse a child than a straight man, the fact that we have constructed them as deviants means that gay men are often suspect when they should not be.  After being convicted, Baran became a pariah amongst his fellow prisoners.  He was subject to violence and sexual abuse, because his  fellow inmates attempted to inflict prisoners justice on this innocent man.

Can there be anything more horrifying than being convicted of a crime that you did not commit and having your life ripped away from you in the pearl of your youth? Baran went to prison not because of overwhelming evidence confirming his guilt but because of a culture of homophobia that is intent on demonizing gay men as sexual predators.

There was evidence in his favor — hours of videotaped interviews with the children — but jurors, Baran and his attorney never saw all of them.

At trial, the prosecutor left out the ones in which Baran's charges said they'd never been harmed by him.

In others, children say Baran never touched their private parts. In some, children said he did, often after being repeatedly asked the same question until it is answered affirmatively, according to Swomley.

Baran is a better person than I because I would sue for every single dollar that I could get.  Even though this will never bring back the 21 years  that he lost, he is entitled to some sort of retribution.  About suing Baran commented, "It doesn't seem like it's enough," he said. "Unless there's some kind of change in the system that would make it impossible for this to happen to someone else."

When we allow homophobia to continue to exist without being challenged and the cost is paid in lives and freedom.  Saying things like that’s so gay or using hate terms life faggot, ensures that members of the GLBT community continue to be thought of as second class citizens.  How many men like Bernard Baran are currently rotting in jails today because we have decided to construct a gay identity as uniquely deviant?