By Ralph Nader, from HuffingtonPost.com
“The Boston Marathon bombings killed three and injured more than 180. The West, Texas industrial explosion killed at least 14 and injured more than 180. Guess which one drew the greater media and law enforcement response?
If it turns out that the West, Texas explosion is the result of a “terrorist act,” expect federal law enforcement officials and the mass media to fly to Texas from Boston. But until then, don’t expect much.
One reason — our two tier criminal justice system. One tier for individuals. Another for corporations.
Case in point — the April 2010 Massey Energy Upper Big Branch coal mine disaster that killed 29 miners in West Virginia. In December 2011, the Department of Labor found that Massey’s “unlawful policies and practices” were the “root cause of this tragedy.” But in the same month, the Justice Department said it would not criminally prosecute the company. Instead, the Justice Department entered into a “non prosecution agreement” with Massey.
David Uhlmann is the former head of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section.
He was disturbed by Justice Department’s failure to criminally prosecute Massey. He says he would have criminally charged the company. After all, he says, he has charged many a major corporate criminal for far less human damage. Uhlmann, currently a professor of law at the University of Michigan Law School, says that the Massey non prosecution agreement is part of an expanding pattern.
“The deal with Massey continues a disturbing trend whereby corporations can avoid criminal prosecution by entering deferred prosecution or non-prosecution agreements,” Uhlmann wrote in an opinion piece in the New York Times in December 2011. “They create the appearance that justice can be bought.”
Instead of securing guilty pleas in clear cut cases of corporate criminality, the Justice Department caves to the demands of corporate criminal defense attorneys and enters into deferred and non-prosecution agreements.”
This is a vital topic that needs to be addressed, and the law properly and evenly enforced, or U.S. civil society will degrade at a much faster pace. When people feel they have no recourse through the “Just-Us” system and can see that the government has been bought by corporate interests, leaving them abandoned to the mercies of those same corporate sharks, the People will eventually look for other means of “justice”. And other government.
To my mind, other than in cases of self-defense or true accidents, whenever there is a homicide, somebody needs to go to jail for it. Individuals are ALWAYS responsible for these crimes, as well as the corporations responsible for the damages. Criminal prosecution of both the companies and the individual actors is the best way to keep other people safe in the future, both as a deterrent to criminal behavior and as a motivator to do that which is required by law (for obvious safety reasons, as here).
The West, Texas explosion is the most obvious case of gross negligence, i.e., at least negligent homicide, that we’ve seen since the Massey coal mine disaster. The only reason for failure to prosecute these crimes would be corruption. - Wes