Monday, August 4, 2008

Community on Trial

I got a phone call this afternoon from New York and it was bad news. My friend Susan Patrice had just learned that Becky Johnson was acquitted on all charges in the shooting of Ganas Community member Jeff Gross two years ago. It was an incredible result.

My understanding is that the District Attorney prosecuting the case made no attempt to explain to the jurors what it means to be an intentional community, and that there was no response to repeated pejorative references to Ganas as a "cult" by the defense attorney. Indeed, that was part of their defense: that Becky had been abused and mentally damaged by her association with the community (and thus, apparently, wasn't responsible for her shooting Jeff six times at point blank range after stalking him for months).

The other angle taken by the defense was that Becky wasn't the one pulling the trigger. Becky denied it and there were no other witnesses to the shooting besides Jeff. Apparently his word, and the circumstantial evidence (such as guns in Becky's apartment and notes indicating her obsession with Jeff) were not enough to convict beyond a reasonable doubt.

According to Susan, who witnessed the seven days of court proceedings, the basic strategy of the defense was to put the community—and alternative lifestyles—on trial instead of Becky. I guess it worked.

Sitting in Missouri I'm shaking my head, trying to understand how all the testimony of community members in support of their lifestyle was ineffective in the face of an obviously mentally damaged Becky. They apparently found it easier to believe that the community members were all either lying or duped and that Becky's damage was yet another piece of evidence of the community's duplicity and ill-intent, rather than believe that the community was basically fine and that an unwell Becky
preferred to hold Ganas responsible for her bad experience instead of taking responsibility for it herself.

It was a hot and muggy day in northeast Missouri, but it's always a chill wind blowing when "unpopular and unusual" is confused with "unjust and unprotected." My heart goes out to Jeff and my friends at Ganas. They deserved better.

1 comment:

ddjango said...

So, so sad. But, unfortunately, very predictable.

In a society so sickened and deluded by narcissistic individualism, anyone who seeks simplicity, cooperation, and commonality through loving and productive associations is a pariah of the first order.

As the need for intentional community becomes more critical, we may expect the resistance to become more powerful.