JOHN DERBYSHIRE: Smollett, Maxwell, Potter—Another Bad Week For The U.S. Justice System
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Adapted from the latest Radio Derb, available exclusively at

My faith in the integrity of courtroom justice was holed below the waterline twenty-some years ago, when I followed the child sex-abuse hysterias of the 1980s and 1990s.

Those were shameful injustices, travesties of justice. Decent, harmless citizens like Gerald Amirault and his family—there were many, many others—were convicted and given double-digit sentences on charges no sensible person could credit, and for which there was no physical evidence.

Ambitious, unscrupulous prosecutors; dim-witted juries; avaricious and/or ideological attorneys; bought-and-paid-for judges; all were on plain display there back in the nineties.

And our country then was more sane than it is now! It still had a stabilizing ballast of older citizens with memories of war and Depression, of reality biting hard. Today we are more frivolous, more stupid, more detached from reality.

So my expectations that today's judicial system will consistently deliver anything resembling justice, could not be lower. When it does so, as in the Rittenhouse trial last month, I am quietly astonished.

Much more common, and more in line with my cynical expectations, was the appalling miscarriage of justice in the Arbery case, also of last month, where three decent, public-spirited citizens had their lives and the lives of their families destroyed by the determined efforts of an antiwhite cabal of prosecutors, politicians, activists, and media bloodsuckers.

The Arbery case illustrates an important point about the random and approximate nature of our justice system: that it is at its most random, most approximate when dealing with cases that snap easily into the cherished, beloved Narrative of working-class whites—especially Southerners—being beastly to blacks.

That Narrative is so deep imbedded in our collective psyche, it is now unusual to find a person—even a normal, non-ideological person—whose worldview is not infected by it.

This week’s cases:

  • Jussie Smollett

This did not snap neatly into the Narrative, although Jussie did his best to make it do so. The white perps Jussie accused of having assaulted him back in January 2019 could never be located.

The only other human beings involved in the incident who could be located were the Osundairo brothers from Nigeria. My own cynicism kicked in from the very start, like many other peoples'—including, I am sure, the Chicago police officers assigned to investigate the so-called crime. I doubt there were ever so many eyes rolling simultaneously as when a roomful of seasoned big-city street cops were given that assignment. Jussie's story was all so obviously phony … unless, of course, you have sold your soul to the Narrative.

How cynical was I? Well, when I first saw that stock picture of the Osundairo brothers, as black and as jacked as it is possible to be, my first thought was: "Oh, so those are the guys Jussie was paying to bugger him."

On the courtroom testimony, that was not precisely the case; but I think I got the main idea of the relationships there.

Laying cynicism aside, I am now going to annoy some readers, I'm sure, by saying that I don't think Jussie should have been brought to trial, any more than the three defendants in the Arbery case should have been. This, and that, were wastes of public time and resources for reasons ultimately political.

Remember the early stages of this case. January 2019, Jussie claimed he was attacked. February that year, state attorney Kim Foxx stepped away from the case, handing it to her assistant Joseph Magats to pursue, while also asking the FBI to take an interest. In March Jussie was indicted for a false report…but then, three weeks later, all charges were dropped.

Why? Well, Assistant D.A. Magats had cut a deal with Jussie's attorneys. The deal was, they would drop the charges provided Jussie performed sixteen hours of community service and forfeited his ten-thousand-dollar bond.

That seems pretty fair to me for what was surely a trivial offense by a guy with no criminal background. So late March 2019 should have been the end of the matter.

Why wasn't it? Well, Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, and Eddie Johnson, his police chief, were mad as hell about the charges being dropped. Chief Johnson had given over three thousand man-hours to investigating the damn thing, he protested. To which a sensible response would have been: "Well then, let's not waste any more resources on it." That wasn't the response he got, though.

And on the national political scene, Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, with their eyes of course fixed on the following year's presidential election, were pushing to have lynching made a federal hate crime. The Smollett story, which both senators pretended to believe, was helpful to them and needed to be kept alive.

Plus the FBI had gotten involved on Kim Foxx's urging. So what with one political thing and another political thing, the Jussie Smollett case stayed alive when it should have died peacefully in late March 2019.

I apologize to Jussie Smollett on behalf of all citizens who believe in swift, clean, proportionate, and un-political justice.

You're an idiot, Jussie, and a deeply unattractive human being. Neither thing is against the law, though. You've been unfairly treated. Ten thousand dollars and sixteen hours of community service looks proportionate to me. It's not your fault the media is full of gullible, Narrative-soaked nitwits. I'd like to see them in court.

  • The Maxwell-Epstein mysteries.

The federal prosecutors in the Maxwell trial told us they'd rest their case Friday. However, a key attorney has taken ill, so now the prosecution may not rest until next week.

Ms. Maxwell is charged with procuring underage girls for Jeffrey Epstein, the super-rich guy who passed away under mysterious circumstances in August 2019, and the precise source of whose wealth is also mysterious, at any rate to me. All Epstein's on record as having done for a living is managing the financial affairs of other people—very seriously rich people, to be sure; but I can't see that he got as much as he seems to have gotten just from that.

Whatever: Epstein was very rich, Ms. Maxwell and he were some kind of an item; and prosecutors claim she helped procure jailbait for him and his rich friends.

Ms. Maxwell is the daughter of British media mogul Robert Maxwell, who also died a mysterious death—drowned, either by suicide or otherwise, after falling from his luxury yacht in 1991.

Robert Maxwell was a piece of work. Born to a poor Jewish family in 1920s Czechoslovakia, he got out of Nazi-occupied Europe, joined the British Army, and had a good war. Postwar he went into publishing, got modestly rich, and was a Labour Party Member of Parliament for six years in the 1960s. The 1970s and 1980s he spent getting richer from media takeovers. After his death, it turned out he'd been looting his business enterprises to the degree that they soon collapsed.

He was also a spy of some kind, with links to Britain's MI6, the Soviet Union's KGB, and Israel's Mossad. He was either a double or a triple agent, no one seems to know for sure.

And he and Jeffrey Epstein were pals back in the day—in the 1980s, that is, when Robert Maxwell was coming under increasing suspicion of financial shenanigans and Epstein himself was a player in Towers Financial Corporation, which later—after Epstein had left the firm—turned out to have been a massive Ponzi scheme. Birds of a feather.

Was Epstein, like Maxwell, working with Israeli intelligence at some level? It's not improbable. I refer you to Miami Herald reporter Julie Brown’s book published this summer, Perversion of Justice, delving into some of the mysteries of Epstein's life and death.

Most to the point here: when Robert Maxwell's businesses collapsed following his death in 1991, his daughter Ghislaine, youngest of his nine children, was not quite thirty. The whole family was in distress, having gotten used to living high. Ghislaine moved to New York, where she met Epstein. He seems to have given the family considerable help, in return for which Ghislaine shared not only her intimate favors but also her contacts among Britain's rich elite, apparently including Prince Andrew, Queen Elizabeth's second son.

It's all a strange and tangled tale, and still today getting stranger and tangleder. Observers of the current trial tell us that the prosecution hasn't been trying very hard, is just going through the motions. There are murmurs that rich and powerful people—ex-Presidents even—wish it so.

If the complete story of Epstein and the Maxwells is ever written out in full and published between hard covers—if—the Amazon delivery driver will need a hand truck to get it to your front door.

  • Another Minneapolis martyr

The Kim Potter trial got under way this week.

Ms. Potter was a police officer on the force of Brooklyn Center, an inner suburb of Minneapolis. Back in April, she and a fellow officer pulled over a car for a technical violation. In the car were 20-year-old Daunte Wright and his girlfriend. The cops ran Wright's ID through their computer: turned out there was a warrant out for his arrest.

They went back to his car and told him to step out. Officer Potter's colleague started to cuff him; but Wright pulled away and got back into the car, plainly intending to drive away. The colleague tried to pull him back out of the car while Officer Potter pulled out her weapon and yelled "I'll Tase you! Taser! Taser! Taser!" Unfortunately, she'd pulled out her revolver by mistake.

It fired; the car rolled a few yards, then hit another car and stopped. Daunte Wright was pronounced dead at the scene.

It's all on video and it's plain that Officer Potter knew at once that she'd pulled the wrong weapon, and was distraught over the result. She's since resigned from the force.

In the trial that got under way this week she faces two charges: first-degree manslaughter, second-degree manslaughter. Neither implies an intent to kill, only different degrees of carelessness with a weapon.

Ms. Potter is white, though, while Daunte Wright was black, or at any rate black-ish—a quadroon, would be my guess.

So this one is a good fit for the Narrative. Not the Narrative about tobacco-chewing good ol' boys lynching black field hands, but the related secondary narrative of white city cops shooting young black men every chance they get.

And this in Minneapolis, remember, or near enough; the very city from which the Holy Blessed Martyr George Floyd ascended to Heaven on a golden cloud. The show trial of Derek Chauvin was in fact under way nearby when this whole incident occurred.

Being such a good fit for that Narrative, on the Derbyshire Principle we can reasonably expect a mockery of justice here. Standard sentences for those two manslaughter charges are seven years and four, maximums 15 years and ten. Ms. Potter will likely get the maximums, to run consecutively. And then the feds will pile on with the "civil rights" buncombe; although that will not, absolutely not, constitute Double Jeopardy—not, no way, never! Don't even think it's Double Jeopardy!

The jury, twelve seated and two alternates, is seven men, seven women. Two of the women are Asian, one is black; all the other jurors are white.

Naturally, the demonstrators are out in force. The police probably not so much. After last year's ructions and the ritual sacrifice of Officer Chauvin, it's amazing there are any cops left in Minneapolis.

One stomach-turning aspect of all these wretched stories is the fawning coverage given to the deceased. Sure, I understand de mortuis nil nisi bonum, "ask not for whom the bell tolls," and so on; but you can take the eulogies too far. Here's the New York Times:

Daunte Wright has been remembered by friends as upbeat and gregarious, someone who loved to play basketball and was a supportive father to his son, Daunte Jr., who was a year old when Mr. Wright, 20, was killed by a police officer during a traffic stop.

Who was Daunte Wright?, by Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, December 8, 2021

And that's nothing compared to the coverage Wright got from the BBC back in April when the story was new.

Mr. Mason [one of Wright's schoolteachers] told Associated Press that Mr. Wright was "a charismatic kid … one of those kids that everybody looked up to."

Mr. Wright was a talented basketball player when he was in high school, and used to tell Mr. Mason that he wanted to play for the NBA.

Daunte Wright: 'One of those kids everybody looked up to,' BBC, April 15, 2021

There is actually a George Floyd connection, the BBC told us. Courteney Ross, billed here as George Floyd's girlfriend, was at one point Daunte Wright's teacher. She testified that, quote:

It's enough that Floyd is gone, but for one of my youths to be gone as well. He was just a wonderful, beautiful boy.

As my old Dad was wont to say: "Where are all the bad people buried?"

Daunte Wright was in fact quite seriously bad. Back in December 2019 he was charged with aggravated robbery after he threatened with a gun a woman who had given him hospitality. He demanded she hand over $820 in cash he knew she had stashed in her bra [Video shows Daunte Wright posing with gun in woman's bathroom before robbery by Michael Ruiz, Teny Sahakian, Fox News, September 9, 2021].

There's a thing that we normal people wonder all the time: why are these martyrs and victims of the Black Lives Matter pantheon all such scuzzy antisocial unemployable lowlifes? Daunte Wright, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin … These are your heroes? These are your martyrs? Yeccch!

If, as the BLM types keep telling us, cops and vigilantes shoot young black men opportunistically, at random, how come they never hit a young chess wizard or even just a trainee accountant?

John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him.) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. He has had two books published by com: FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle) and FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT II: ESSAYS 2013.

For years he’s been podcasting at Radio Derb, now available at for no charge. His writings are archived at

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