Hale Ralph Stancil
Hale Ralph Stancil
Hale Ralph Stancil on Dec. 24, 1979.
Family photo

Hale Ralph Stancil is the oldest son of Ethel and the late George Ralph Stancil. (George Ira Branch)

Hale is the family genealogist for the Stancil family, collecting information for more than 3,000 people.

He graduated from the University of Florida and Stetson University College of Law. Hale's law studies were interrupted by a stint in the U.S. Marine Corps.

He returned to Ocala where he served as a public defender before opening his solo law practice. In 1982, Hale was elected county judge in a very tight race. Later he was appointed Circuit Judge by Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles, a position he still holds.

Hale lives in Ocala with his wife Becky. They have five children and 10 grandchildren.

 

Hale Ralph Stancil, far right, after graduating from Parris Island, S.C. His brother Harold is in the middle.
Family photo

Hale was invited to be a keynote speaker at the annual National Association of Forensic Counselors held in Las Vegas in September 2008. This is Hale's speech:

Twenty-five Years of Judicial Reflections

Speech by Judge Hale Stancil on Sept. 1, 2008


Changing people for the better
 
Judge Hale Ralph Stancil.

Giving this talk puts me in the same situation as Elizabeth Taylor's seventh husband on their wedding night. I know what I am suppose to do, but how do I make it interesting?

 

Winston Churchill said the three most difficult tasks in life to perform were:

    1. To climb a high wall leaning toward you.

    2. To kiss a girl leaning away from you.

    3. To speak before a group on a subject which they know more than the speaker.

 

Mark Twain once said, "I heard a preacher who was powerful good. I decided to give him every cent I had on me. But he kept at it too long. Ten minutes later, I decided to keep the bills I had and give him my loose change.

 

Another ten minutes and I was darned if I'd give him anything at all. When he finally stopped and the offering plate came around, I was so exhausted; I stole two dollars from the plate in sheer spite."

 

When I was growing up, I had drug problems, which my parents refused to discuss. I was drug out of bed; drug to school; drug to church; I was drug to weddings, funerals and family reunions. When I misbehaved, I was drug by my hair.

 

My life is still affected by these drugs. We live in a rapidly changing environment. In 1964, Victor Porchnow wrote: "In 1789, it took George Washington eight days to travel some two hundred odd miles from Mount Vernon, to his inauguration in New York City."

 

That it required eight days of traveling is not significant. The important fact is a trip of two hundred miles would have required eight days two thousand years earlier. Moses or Alexander the Great could not have traveled any faster.

 

Life during Washington's lifetime had not changed a great deal from life in the first century. Lighting was provided by oil lamps and candles. Fireplaces were used for both cooking and heat. Traveling was by foot, horse or sailing ship. "Julius Caesar," said Porchnow, "could have stepped from the first century into the nineteenth century more easily than Benjamin Franklin or Mark Twain could have stepped into the twentieth century.

 

But for the first time in history, no man now dies in the historic epoch in which he was born."

 

A Message to Garcia - By Elbert Hubbard

 

One evening after supper in 1899, Elbert Hubbard and his son, Bert, got into an argument about the real hero of the Spanish-American War. His son Bert, suggested that Rowan was the real hero. Within an hour Hubbard wrote what has come to be known as "A Message to Garcia."

 

Hubbard said, "It came to me like a flash! Yes, the boy is right. The hero is the man who does his work - who carries the message to Garcia."

 

Immediately after publication in March of 1899, calls came in for copies. The New York Central Railroad ordered one and half million copies. At the time, the director of Russian Railways was visiting the President of the New York Central and he had it translated into Russian.

 

In the Russo-Japanese war every Russian soldier, who went to the front, was given a copy of "A Message to Garcia."

 

The Japanese, finding copies on Russian prisoners, concluded that it must be a good thing, and translated it into Japanese and the Emperor, ordered copies given to every man employed by the Japanese Government.

 

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For purposes of this speech, I have taken the liberty of changing the wording of Elbert Hubbard's article, "A Message To Garcia," to better fit the times.

 

In all this Cuban business, there is one man who stands out on the horizon of my memory, like the Statue of Liberty. When the Spanish-American war broke out, it was very necessary to communicate quickly with General Garcia, the leader of the Insurgents.

 

Garcia was somewhere in the mountains of Cuba, but no one knew where. No mail or telegraph message could reach him. President McKinley was quickly in need of his cooperation. What to do! Someone said to the President, "There is a fellow by the name of Rowan who will find Garcia for you, if anyone can."

 

Rowan was sent for and given a letter to be delivered to Garcia. "Rowan" took the letter, sealed it up in an oilskin pouch, strapped it over his heart, and in four days, landed by night off the coast of Cuba in an open boat.

 

Then, he disappeared into the jungle, and in three weeks came out on the other side of the Island. Having traveled across a hostile country on foot, he delivered McKinley's letter to Garcia. How he survived is not important.

 

The point is: McKinley gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia; Rowan took the letter and delivered it. He did not ask, "Where is he at?" Rowan is the man whose form should be cast in bronze, and his statue placed in every college across the land. It is not a college education or book learning that men need.

 

What is needed is a stiffening of the back, which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies, and carry "A Message to Garcia."

 

Anyone who has ever run a business has been disgusted many times by the incompetence or half-hearted effort of many employees.

 

Put what I'm saying to a test: As you are sitting in your office call anyone of your administrative assistants and make this request: "Would you please give me a brief memorandum on the life of Correggio?"

 

Will he quietly say, "Yes, sir, and go do it?" Most likely he will not. What he will do is give you a strange look and say one or more of the following: Who was he? Where do I look? That's not my job. I'm busy. Why can't Shirley do it? Are you in a hurry? Why do you want to know?

 

I'll bet you ten to one, that after you have answered the questions, and explained how to find the information, and why you want it, he will go off and try to get some other person to help him try to find Correggio.

 

Of course, I may lose my bet, but according to the law of averages, I will not. Now, if you are wise, you will not bother to explain to your assistant that Correggio starts with a C and not K, but you will smile very sweetly and say, "Nevermind."

 

Then look it up yourself. It is this incapacity for independent action and unwillingness to promptly perform these simple things, which is destroying the very fabric of our country.

 

A first sergeant with a club is necessary in many businesses. The fear of getting fired on Friday keeps many workers in place. Advertise for a secretary and many of those who apply, can neither spell, punctuate nor use words correctly.

 

Their question is: Don't you use a computer with grammar and spell check? Can such a person even write a letter to Garcia?

 

Today there is a lot of sympathy for day laborers and other hourly paid workers, including the homeless, and unemployed. Meanwhile, those working 16 or more hours a day trying to run a business, trying to survive, are trashed and accused of underpaying and taking advantage of their employees.

 

However, nothing is said about the employer who grows old before his time hiring unreliable employees. In every business there is a constant seeding out process taking place. Employers are constantly terminating and seeking replacements for those incapable of helping the business succeed. This sorting process continues in good times and bad.

 

The incompetent and unreliable are always being pushed out. Self-interest prompts every employer to keep the best. To keep only those who can carry "A message to Garcia."

 

There are those who are very intelligent, but who are absolutely worthless to anyone else, because they're constantly complaining and criticizing their employer. They are the last to arrive and the first to leave. They can neither give nor receive orders.

 

Should you try to get them to take "A message to Garcia," the response would probably be, "Take it yourself." And, this is the very person looking for work. He will not take advice and is inflexible to reason.

 

While this man is to be pitied, let us not forget to shed a tear for the man who works long hours trying to hold in line employees who have no interest in whether his business succeeds or not. I may seem too critical.

 

But I wish to speak a word of sympathy for the man who succeeds. The man who does his work when the "boss" is present, as well as when he is away; and the man, who when given a letter for Garcia, quietly takes the letter, without asking any idiotic questions and delivers it promptly.

 

This is the man who never gets laid off. This is the man wanted in every city, town, and village, in every office, shop, store, and factory. The man who can carry "A Message to Garcia."

 

REFLECTIONS

 

During the 25 years I've been a trial judge I have case ranging from the replevin of a borrowed crock pot, to first degree murder. I've heard them all.

 

We are a nation full of excuses. It seems as though everyone about to be sentenced has an excuse. I've heard attorneys argue for leniency because the defendant came from a broken home. His mother was a prostitute and/or his father was a drunk. His father abandoned the family.

 

The defendant quit school to support his mother, his wife, his girl friend or his family. The defendant has an alcohol or drug problem. If the defendant is well educated and came from a good family, the excuse is: "I just don't understand it, my client came from a good family, with plenty of money, a good job, a beautiful wife and family. He needs to put this behind him and rebuild his life." Yet, in spite of all these handicaps, the attorney argues, the defendant can make probation. I'm sure you have heard similar excuses. I often ask sellers of cocaine and crystal meth, how much they make selling drugs.

 

Many say nothing, while others say "$1,000 a day." I have one who said, More than a thousand, but refused to give the amount. Where are drug dealers and other criminals, who are making $500 to $1,000 per day by their criminal activity, going to find a job in our society? Do you really think these criminals are going to work for $15 or $20 an hour? It ain't going to happen. And why not?

 

Because they enjoy the freedom and independence of being their own boss and not having to answer to anyone but themselves. A Tallahassee, Florida, juvenile being sentenced for shooting a jogger over a gold chain, was asked, "How could this incident have been avoided?" He responded, "He could have given me his chain, I asked him twice."

 

Actually, the hardest people to sentence are those who say, "Judge, I don't have an excuse. I was wrong, and I'm ready to accept my punishment." When I hear this, I actually try to think of some mitigating factor or excuse myself.

 

The key factor to a person's behavior is personal choice. Your character and reputation are probably the same or very similar as that of your associates. You are known by the company you keep. "If you lay down with dogs, you get fleas."

 

"You are," according to Jim Rohn, "the average of the five people you spend the most time with." In the words of Brian Tracy, "You are a living magnet. What you attract into your life is in harmony with your dominant thoughts."

 

Most of those being sentenced for drug and alcohol offenses say they want help. Yet, they continue to associate with drug users and dealers. I tell them if they want to change, then change their friends, and don't associate with drug dealers and users. Sometimes you need to change your friends and associates, the same as you do a diaper or light bulb.

 

You cannot improve your character and reputation by compromising your integrity or blaming others.

 

The book, "Lone Survivor" tells the true story of a Navy Seal team inserted into Afghanistan to seek out and kill a terrorist leader. Three of the four members of the team were killed. In his auto-biography, the author Marcus Luttrell makes the statement, "Reputation is everything."

 

And you know, the more I think about it, he is right. Reputation and character together, go hand in hand. Everything about a person, and who they really are, is embedded in their character and reputation, like DNA in a cell.

 

Remember this; if you take care of your character, your reputation will take care of itself.

 

People can ruin your reputation, but only you can ruin your character. "One of the most important lessons that experience teaches," said William Edward Hartpole, "is that, on the whole, success depends more upon character than upon either intellect or fortune." Most of those we see have defects in character.

 

Drug users, sex offenders, batterers and child abuse offenders, have defects in their character, not a lack of intelligence or education. It is their character that fails.

 

Many want the easy road to what they perceive is success. They want it, and they want it now, but do not want to take the time to earn it. The attitude is; if I can get it and get away with it, it's OK, so much the better.

 

If I get caught, I'll deal with it. Character is made not born. Hardship builds it and ease will rot it. During the first appearance hearing involving a juvenile charged with murder, the obvious question asked was, "Why did you kill him?"

 

The response given by the juvenile murderer was; "Man, you don't argue anymore today, you just blow the mother fucker away." And that, people, is the problem you and I have to deal with. To survive, a family, tribe, nation or civilization must adhere to a given standard of ethics and a moral code of conduct.

 

Many want the freedom without the responsibility. The greater the freedom, the greater the responsibility. For centuries the wrath of one's parents and family was an effective crime fighting tool. A criminal conviction usually meant prison, which in turn meant poverty for the family.

 

There was no AFDC, food stamps, public housing, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment, or welfare.

 

If there is no stability within the family unit, how can we expect to have a stable society? Discipline starts in the high chair, not in high school.

 

I have had parents bring seven and eight year old children before me, because their children refused to obey and were out of control.

 

I came from a loving family with two loving parents, I was disciplined, but never abused. When I was growing up, we went to church as a family, vacationed as a family, and ate meals as a family. These days when a child is disciplined, God help you if you leave a mark or someone is watching.

 

I don't believe that just because a mark is on your body from being punished, that you were abused. What about the scars of neglect and failure to discipline? Many parents today are simply afraid to discipline their children in a meaningful way. Discipline for the most part is being left up to the courts.

 

If discipline doesn't start in the home, it has a good chance of starting in the courts and ending in prison or the cemetery. Fights at school today often end up in juvenile court. Whereas, when I was in school, it was left up to the principal.

 

Education is often seen as the solution to each and every problem we face. But there is never enough money.

Yet, after the diploma is given, the recipient can't read, write, do simple math or communicate. With the deadly threat of AIDS or unwanted pregnancies, the answer given to us is education.

 

Why isn't the answer or solution, "Change your lifestyle and stop what you are doing?" Free needles, condoms, abortions, sex education and research, is not the answer. The answer is character and morality.

 

However, the answer given by many is, keep doing it, but take precautions, protect yourself. With drugs, again the answer is the same, education. But, isn't it amazing that whenever firearms are mentioned, the solution suddenly changes from education, to confiscation and the outlawing of firearms. Why not education?

 

I agree with what President Theodore Roosevelt said, "Education is important, but integrity far outranks education. True, a man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car;" said Roosevelt, "but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad."

Most of our major problems are due to a lack of morality, not a lack of education. "To educate a man in mind and not in morals," said President Roosevelt, "is to educate a menace to society."

 

Today's schools are much larger than the small neighborhood schools of the past. When schools were smaller, everyone generally knew everyone. Anyone who wanted to play a sport had the opportunity to do so.

 

Today, only the best athletes can make the team. Those that aren't exceptional, can't compete, can't participate and are left out. The parents at the smaller neighborhood schools were more involved with the teachers and school administration. Illegal drugs and alcohol abuse have created some of the most serious problems we have ever faced.

 

There are those in Congress and other high government offices whose family members and relatives have died because of drug abuse. Likewise, many actors and professional athletes have drug problems, and some have died from drug overdose. Are we to assume that these individuals did not know of the dangers of drugs?

 

It is difficult to solve morality problems when people are told, "You must decide for yourself what is right and wrong." Education alone will not solve problems associated with immorality.

 

HOW DO WE CHANGE PEOPLE?

 

It is very difficult to change people who do not wish to change. The key to changing people is making people want to change.

 

For the most part, the people we are trying to change are not normal in the sense that you and I are normal and don't want to change. Most of the theories we have would probably work on normal people, but normal people generally don't need counseling.

 

So how do we change those among us who are not normal? We cannot ignore those in our society who are a danger to themselves and others. Hopefully, the decisions we make have a positive impact, on not only the lives of the client, but also the lives of many others.

 

Hopefully our influence will always be positive, and never negative. It is not just your client and/or his family that is affected. We never know where our influence stops.

 

The number of lives affected by our decisions will never be known. Our decisions will affect lives long after we are gone. From time to time, I'll be in a store or at some public forum when some one will approach me and say, "You remember me?" "Are you Judge Stancil?"

 

I usually don't remember them, but occasionally I do. On more than one occasion, I've actually had people thank me for sending them to prison. They usually relate how it changed their life.

 

That they have gotten their life straightened out, turned over a new leaf, and now have a family, children and a good job. They've changed their friends and no longer depend on drugs or alcohol. I'm sure that many of you have had the same experience.

 

No two individuals are alike. An enriched environment for one is not necessarily enriched for another. It is not uncommon for children from the same family to have differing lives.

 

One child may become a drug dealer, burglar, robber or rapist, while the other becomes a doctor, lawyer or respected public official. No two people learn in an identical way.

 

Our goal is to teach people to think correctly and make good decisions. I expect those I put on probation to comply with each and every condition imposed.

 

When judges reinstate probation violators 4 and 5 times, the word gets out and the probation officer's job is made more difficult. The docket I inherited contained numerous probationers who had been reinstated four and five times. I put a stop to that. If I'm going to enter an order; I'm going to enforce it. If I'm not going to enforce it, then I will not enter it. When judges are tough and back up probation officers and counselors, it makes everyone's jobs easier.

 

Some tell us: "Don't tell people they're wrong. It hurts their self esteem". I don't know about you, but I'm always telling people they are wrong, they violated the law. I tell those I put on probation or community control, they are going to do it my way. I tell them this Court ain't Burger King. You do it my way, or you will probably go to prison.

 

The beginning of wisdom is calling things by their right names. I'm reminded of Abe Lincoln, who asked a man the following question. "If you call a dog's tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have?" The man responded, "Five." "Wrong," said Lincoln, "calling a dog's tail a leg doesn't make it so."

 

There can be no change in conduct without a positive change in attitude. Regarding Attitude: Charles Swindoll said this: "The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do.

 

It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home."

 

He went on to say: "The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way.

 

We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude... I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it." "We are in charge of our attitudes."

 

A Stanford study determining percentage of importance of attitude in success as compared to innate ability, reported the following: 92% is determined by your attitude; and 8% by your innate ability. In comparing attitude and IQ in the ability to learn: 75% is attitude, and 25% IQ.

 

A Harvard study comparing attitude and skills/knowledge in why a person gets a job, keeps a job or moves up in a job: 85% is attitude; and 15% technical skills/knowledge. Max Thomsen Stanford Study of the influencing of a person's self image on his/her ability to learn: 50% is based on own self image, 25% IQ, and 24% the organization. A year after I was elected Judge, I was assigned to the child support docket.

 

During child support hearings I was constantly confronted by non-paying parents who said they could not find a job. After hearing this excuse for a few months, I decided something had to be done. At first, I started bringing in newspapers and reading the want ads to those who said they couldn't find a job.  

 

Here is an example I often used: "Wanted, executive, age 22-80. Job entails sitting with feet on desk from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., watching others work. Must be willing to play golf every other afternoon, and party every Thursday evening. Salary starts at $1,000 a week."

 

This always got their attention. I would then say: "No, there is no such job. Just thought you'd like to hear the kind of job everyone wants."

 

After a month or two of this, I decided further steps needed to be taken. One day, when confronted by a man who claimed he couldn't find a job, I asked him if he would like me to help him find one. Joyfully the man said, "Yes." I said, "Well this is how it's going to work. I'm going to sign an order, ordering you to go to ten places a day seeking employment.

 

You will maintain a log of the places you go and apply for employment. You will indicate the date and time you were there, the address, the telephone number and have some responsible person sign that you were in fact there. You will bring this form back in two weeks and we'll see whether or not you were successful." Well, guess what?

 

Child support collections doubled. Of course the rest of the story is many of those who obtained new jobs would quit unless they were monitored. So I required them to come back to court every two or three months to monitor their payments. Job searches work.

 

I was invited to speak at a convention of child support enforcement officers near Miami and explain my approach to child support. Soon my job search program was being used in all parts of the state. I am convinced that almost anyone who wants a job can find one.

 

But you must be dependable and respectful. You must be willing to work. The problem is many who claim they want a job are disrespectful, unreliable, and unwilling to work or learn.

 

Their vocabulary is made up mostly of profane and inappropriate words, and they either don't want to work or even know how to work. They are incapable of putting in a day's work for a day's pay.

 

Which reminds me of the man seeking a job, and when asking what he would be paid, the potential employer responded, "I'll pay you what you're worth." Upon hearing this, the man responded, "I won't work for what I'm worth." Many problems are made worse by people who refuse to acknowledge they have a problem.

 

I once had a lady in her middle 30's who appeared for violation of probation. Her attorney presented me with some medical records indicating her client had breast cancer. I'm sure they thought that if I knew she had cancer, I would let her off probation. Well, guess what? I asked her how long she had been diagnosed with cancer, and she said something like nine months. I asked her what treatment she was undergoing and she said, "None, I haven't started it yet."

 

So, I asked who her doctor was and she replied, "I don't have one."

 

Upon hearing this, I revoked her probation and sentenced her to 24 months in prison. I just may have saved her life by sending her to prison, because now she will get the medical care she needs. It is almost impossible to help people who refuse to help themselves.

 

I try to treat all people with respect, and I demand respect in return. I have always tried to make the best decision I can, based on two things: the law and the evidence. I make a lot of decisions I don't like, but I will never make one I think is contrary to the law or the evidence. Sometimes it is necessary to think outside the box.

 

During law school, one of my professors was a retired FBI agent. He related that during his duty assignment in California, they had to deal with a persistent individual who came into their office every few days saying the Russians were sending him radio messages through the fillings in his teeth.

 

This went on for some time, until one of the agents told the man the reason he was hearing the radio messages was because he wasn't grounded. He calmly opened his desk drawer, took out a paper clip and placed it in the cuff of the man's pants.

 

He told the gentleman to always keep the paper clip in the cuff of his pants and he would no longer be bothered with the signals. Apparently, it worked, as the gentleman left and never came back.

 

And then there was Bubba and the Shrink. Bubba sheepishly consulted a psychiatrist. "I've got this problem," he said. "Every time I go to bed, I think there's somebody under it. I can't sleep. I think I'm going crazy." "Just put yourself in my hands for one year," said the psychiatrist. "Come talk to me three times a week, and we should be able to get rid of those fears." "How much that gonna cost?" asked Bubba. "Eighty dollars per visit." "I'll let you know," said Bubba.

 

Six months later the two happened to meet on the street and the psychiatrist said, "Bubba, why didn't you ever come see me about those fears?"

"Well," said, Bubba, "80 bucks a visit, three times a week, for a year, is an awful lot of money! My bartender said he could cure me for $10, and he did! Boy was I happy! I went and bought me a new pickup with the dough I saved!" "Is that so?" asked the psychiatrist? "And just how, pray tell, was a bartender able to cure your phobia. Alcohol would only make it worse." "He told me to cut the legs off the bed!

 

Damn sure ain't nobody under there now!"

 

Then there is the Bathtub Test: During a visit to the mental asylum, a visitor asked the Director what the criteria was that defines a patient's need to be institutionalized. "Well," said the Director, "we fill up a bathtub. We offer a teaspoon, a teacup and a bucket to the patient, and ask the patient to empty the bathtub."

 

OK, here's your test: Would you use the spoon, the teacup or the bucket? "Oh, I understand," said the visitor. "A normal person would choose the bucket as it is the largest." "No," answered the Director. "A normal person would pull the plug." In talking about education, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., said, "Intelligence plus character, the true goal of education is to develop safe schools and strong character."

 

Many of our problems will not be solved without a positive change in character. A principle that needs to be instilled in every person, from the "cradle to the grave," is that of individual responsibility. People need to understand they are accountable for their conduct. There is little fear of being punished anymore.

 

The concept of personal responsibility for your conduct, your actions and your future, is fading. For punishment to be effective, the individual being punished must suffer what they themselves consider to be a penalty and punishment. The truth is, the majority of people who violate the law do not consider fines, probation or community control punishment.

 

To the vast majority, the only thing they consider punishment is going to jail or prison. To most, probation, fines and community control are nothing more than an inconvenience for a short time. Fines permitted to be paid in monthly installments are nothing different than a "revolving charge account."

 

A monthly visit with your probation officer is like a visit with your employer. When judges put people on probation or impose fines for breaking into your home, your business or car, rather than send them to prison, the message conveyed to the criminal, the victim and the public is that the offense committed is not serious enough to warrant prison.

 

The attitude and philosophy of the judge is reflected in the sentences imposed on those who appear before him, and the public's awareness of those sentences.

 

Judges who do not hold people accountable for their actions contribute to the problem. I do not mean to imply that the maximum sentence should automatically be imposed. There are mitigating factors, but we should not forget that there are aggravating factors as well. I am truly amazed at the sentences some judges hand out. I've seen people with over thirty prior convictions offered probation.

 

Of course, many people fail to realize that the Prosecutor has more power than any other person in the administration of criminal law. It is their decision, and theirs alone, as to whether charges are filed, reduced or dismissed.

 

One hundred years ago, then President Taft, said, "The administration of criminal law in this country is a disgrace." In spite of the criticism and contempt we may have for our criminal justice system, I don't know anyone who would trade our system for any other system in the world. I, like many of you, often voice criticism for the way it is.

 

Mark Twain said this about our jury system, "We have a criminal jury system which is superior to any in the world; and its efficiency is only marred by the difficulty of finding twelve men, every day who don't know anything and can't read."

 

"I REMEMBER one of those sorrowful farces, in Virginia, which we call a jury trial," wrote Mark Twain in his 1871 travelogue ''Roughing It." A ''noted desperado" had brutally killed a man, and the local papers were full of the news. But everyone who had heard of the killing, much less discussed it, was kept off the jury for fear he might be biased.

 

As a result, the jury was comprised of ''two desperadoes, two low beerhouse politicians, three barkeepers, two ranchmen who could not read, and three dull, stupid, human donkeys. It actually came out afterward, that one of these three thought that incest and arson were the same thing."

 

The verdict was not guilty. He went on to say, "The jury system puts a ban upon intelligence and honesty, and a premium upon ignorance, stupidity and perjury.

It is a shame that we must continue to use a worthless system because it was good a thousand years ago...I desire to tamper with the jury law. I wish to so alter it as to put a premium on intelligence and character, and close the jury box against idiots, and people who do not read newspapers. But no doubt I shall be defeated--every effort I make to save the country "mis fires."

 

It is sad to say that over 145 years after Twain's comments, lawyers and judges and others still confuse an ignorant jury with an impartial one. One of the most important things that each of us can do to improve justice is to be willing to serve as jurors.

 

Ignoring jury duty is not going to improve our system of justice. Serve when you get the opportunity. After serving, you might have some meaningful suggestions on how to improve the system.

 

If I were to ask you to name the one person who you thought best exemplified the qualities of honesty, morality, ethics, and trust, that you thought most important, who would you pick? Would you pick your spouse, your parents, your minister, a teacher? Would you pick a local, state or national elected official? Do you consider yourself to be a good representative of these qualities? Who has your greatest respect?

 

Many people, especially the young, would most likely look to the popular and famous. High on the list would most likely be professional sport figures, actors and actresses or professional entertainers. Would any politician be selected? I would not be surprised if many votes went to someone who has had drug problems and/or a criminal conviction.

 

Let's look at a few public officials.

 

President Nixon was forced to resign over Watergate. Vice President Agnew was convicted of tax evasion and money laundering, in taking bribes during his tenure as Governor of Maryland. President Bill Clinton was held in contempt of court for perjury and disbarred from the practice of law.

 

Chuck Colson in his commencement address at Geneva College reported, "Two thirds of the American people say that, if indeed the President of the United States committed perjury, subornation of perjury, tampering with witnesses, and committed a series of sexual indiscretions, it should make no difference, because the country is doing so well." Raleigh, NC, DA Mike Nifong, disbarred for prosecuting members of the Duke University Lacrosse team when there was no evidence.

 

Whatever happened to character and virtue? If these individuals are our reflection, how can we survive as a nation? Corruption does not lead to better societies. Corruption can only lead to destruction. The irony is, we seem to continue to elect people with character flaws over and over again, and then complain when they show their true character.

 

Why do we expect those elected, and in positions of trust, to have a higher standard than they themselves express by their examples?

 

Our founding fathers established the foundations upon which this country grew to be the leader of the entire world. We are rapidly falling from that high position of world leadership and respect because we have given each person the right to determine his own code of ethics and morality, and determine for himself what is right or wrong.

 

When ethical and moral standards that have stood the "tests of time" for centuries begin to fall, the results are catastrophic. It is up to us to establish the ethical and moral standards we want for ourselves, our children, and our community and country.

 

The seeds of character, morality, and ethics we plant and cultivate today will determine our future. We will reap what we sow. "The ultimate measure of a man," said Dr. King "is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." When in combat the question is: Can you depend on the guy in the next foxhole? His character is a whole lot more important than his IQ. And, so it is with each of us.

 

In closing I ask you this one question: Can you carry "A Message To Garcia"?

  Hale Ralph Stancil    

Renn Stancil Hinton


www.stancilreunion.com 2011
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| Modified Feb. 21, 2011