A disgusting crime — and justice denied
This column contains graphic quotations from a legal case involving alleged child sexual abuse. It may not be appropriate for some readers.
Some events resist journalistic attempts at paraphrase and contextualization. The appalling case of Senon Louis Ramirez, a man whose conviction for child sexual assault was recently overturned by an appeals court in Colorado, is one such. Rather than attempt to explain the circumstances of the case myself, I will quote the minimum amount necessary from court documents to convey the unspeakable viciousness:
When the victim was 4 years old, Ramirez, her foster father, ordered her and her sister to approach him. He placed their hands in front of him, pulled down his pants and underwear, and masturbated. Ramirez ejaculated into their hands and made them drink the semen. The victim testified that Ramirez never touched any of her "private parts" and that she never touched his "private parts."
According to the victim's testimony, Ramirez told her than his seminal fluid was "milk."
Thanks to the Supreme Court's ruling in Kennedy v. Louisiana, one of the worst judicial decisions in American history, it is no longer considered "constitutional" for the state to administer the death penalty to convicted child rapists, even in the case of repeat offenders. I mention this by way of explaining how a man who has forfeited his right to live in any decent human society is still alive in 2018. But why does he remain at large? How did Ramirez manage to escape even the rather lenient sentence of 20 years to life to prison?
I pose this question because Ramirez does not dispute that the above-mentioned events took place. Indeed, he has pleaded guilty to a charge of indecent exposure stemming from the same incident. What he and his counsel have argued successfully before a panel of feckless egg-headed lawyers is that his actions do not meet Colorado's statutory definition of child sexual assault because the prosecution "did not prove that the defendant touched an intimate part of the victim or that the victim touched the defendant's intimate part."
Section 18-3-401(4) of the Colorado Criminal Code defines "sexual contact" as:
the knowing touching of the victim's intimate parts by the actor, or of the actor's intimate parts by the victim, or the knowing touching of the clothing covering the immediate area of the victim's or actor's intimate parts if that sexual contact is for the purposes of sexual arousal, gratification, or abuse.
If you have read this far, you understand the mockery of justice that has been performed in Colorado. Did Ramirez actually touch of any of the victim's "intimate parts"? Did the victim touch of any of his? No. But to believe that this textual lacuna is a compelling reason to overturn his sentence you would have to have the brain of a robot and the heart of a sociopath.
As Judge Janice B. Davidson, the lone dissenter in the 2-1 appeals verdict wrote, "it is both contrary to legislative intent and absurd that, for purposes of prohibiting sexual contact with children, a grown man's intimate parts includes his penis but not the sexual excretions of his penis." It is obvious to any experienced reader that the legislature meant to prohibit the conduct in which Ramirez engaged.
Why doesn't the law say so, then? A thousand reasons — modesty, an eminently humane inability to foresee the particularities of depravity to which men might sink, a misplaced faith in the common sene of judges — might explain why the specifics are lacking. Davidson's colleagues disagree. Their response to the Ramirez case is that legislators should rewrite the relevant language to make the prohibition against actions like those of Ramirez explicit. In the meantime, this animal goes free in a world where there are more children.
There are two lessons to be gleaned from this travesty. One is that earthly justice is no substitute for the perfect justice of heaven, which awaits Ramirez, who is 80 years old. The other is that, whatever might be said for and against its application in certain legal contexts — patent law, taxation, the continued application of the Voting Rights Act half a century on — the judicial philosophy known as "textualism" is of limited use in cases where crimes against the natural law are at issue. To suggest that state legislators in Colorado did not intend to proscribe Ramirez's actions when writing the statues quoted above beggars belief. It is only by means of the most unprincipled application of pseudo-legal reasoning that a decision like that of the appeals court could be reached. Ramirez's victims and the nation in which he will be at large deserve better.
Ramirez is a monster. Whether he repents of his crimes is between him and his creator. His attempts to evade earthly justice do not speak to his contrition. The success of his appeal makes me ashamed to be an American. It is a reminder that in cases involving the welfare of children where the intention of legislators is apparent, there should be loftier considerations than the mere letter of the law. No supposed principles are worth this.