When bad things happen, we are supposed to trust law enforcement, and the court system to make sure justice is served. But sometimes, there isn’t enough evidence to charge, and convict the person that everyone thinks is guilty. The phrase “innocent until proven guilty” is the saving grace of some criminals who manage to slip through the cracks of the law, despite committing terrible crimes.
There are certain crimes that some people believe deserve the worst kind of punishment. Proven pedophiles and rapists often have to be held separate from the general population in prison, because they are not safe among the other inmates. Vigilante justice used to be rampant in the form of lynch mobs who would band together when they believed someone wasn’t getting what they deserved. While lynch mobs aren’t as common nowadays, there are still plenty of examples of people taking justice into their own hands. In pop culture, anti-heroes like Dexter show us that not all murderers are cut from the same cloth. Some think they are doing the world a favor, and they truly believe their actions are justified. Here are 8 shocking cases of people taking on the roll of judge, jury, and executioner, all in one fell swoop.
In 1984, when the crime rate in New York City was at its highest a man nicknamed by the media, “The Subway Vigilante”, shot four African American men who he claimed were trying to mug him on a subway train. Bernhard Goetz fired five shots from an unlicensed fire arm, hitting each of the four men once. Barry Allen, Troy Canty, James Ramseur all sustained non-life threatening injuries, while Darrell Cabey (19) ended up paralyzed from the waist down. After 11 days on the run, Goetz turned himself in, and admitted he had purchased the weapon illegally because he was denied proper justice after being mugged, and injured by another group of African American teenagers a few years earlier. He was found not guilty of attempted murder, assault, and reckless endangerment, despite reports that after firing four shots, he said “You don’t look so bad, here’s another,” to Cabey. The case brought into the spotlight existing issues of the police force’s inability to control the crime rate, and racial profiling.
Christine and Jeremy Moody
White supremacist couple Christine and Jeremy Moody set out to kill a long list of people on the sexual offenders registry, but were caught after killing only one– Charles Parker, and his wife, Gretchen. Parker had been convicted, and done his time for taking advantage of a disabled women years earlier, but the Moody’s weren’t satisfied with that. They claimed they were doing God’s work by eliminating all sex offenders and pedophiles, and they showed no remorse in court, even after being sentenced to life in prison. A psychiatrist who evaluated and then testified on behalf of the defense stated that both the Moody’s had been molested as children. After being found guilty, Jeremy said to the Parker family, “See you perverts later. That’s what a child molester should get.”
On April 27, 1913, 13-year-old factory worker, Mary Phagan, was found strangled in the basement of her place of employment, and her boss, Leo Frank, quickly became the prime suspect. At the trial, witnesses claimed that Frank often flirted with Phagan, and the public came to the conclusion that Phagan was murdered for rejecting him. Frank was convicted, and sentenced to hanging, but the sentence was converted to life in prison the day before he was scheduled to be executed. The community of Marietta, Georgia, was deeply invested in the case, so they took matters into their own hands. A mob that called themselves “Phagan’s Knights” kidnapped Frank from the prison, and hung him themselves. Years later, Frank has been posthumously pardoned due to a witness statement that a janitor, Jim Conley was seen carrying Phagan’s dead body to the basement.
Gary Sellers & Robert Bell
Convicted sex offenders are required to make their presence known on a registry that anyone can access, and no one wants a sex offender living in their neighbourhood. That was exactly what happened to 53-year-old Timothy Chandler in 2007, after he was given 5 years probation for possession of child pornography. Two of his neighbours, Gary Sellers, and Robert Bell decided to try and scare Chandler out of their neighbourhood, by setting his house on fire. Another neighbour ran into the burning house and dragged Chandler out, but his wife, Peggy remained trapped inside. Their attempt at their own idea of justice ended up killing a completely innocent woman. Bell plead guilty to second degree murder and was sentenced to 25 years in prison, and Sellers plead guilty to facilitation of second degree murder and arson, and received two concurrent 12 year sentences.
17-year-old Santos Ramos, was identified as a person of interest in the rape and murder investigation of a 35-year-old woman named Leandra Arias Janco, but the people of his Bolivian town weren’t willing to wait around for a trial. Instead, villagers grabbed Ramos at his alleged victim’s funeral, tied him up, and drove him out to her open grave, where he was thrown in and buried alive. The small village police force was unable to stop the mob of close to 100 people from committing this act of vigilantism, and when they tried to rescue Ramos from his grave, the mob prevented them from getting to him. Public lynchings are not uncommon in areas where law enforcement is scarce, and in some parts of Bolivia there is even a law recognizing “indigenous justice” as legitimate.
Jonathan “Jack” Idema
Jonathan Idema claimed to have 12 years of U.S Army Special Forces service, 22 years of combat training, and 18 years of covert operations experience, but in reality he only served a couple years in the army before being honorably discharged due to poor performance. Instead of leaving his “military background” behind, and moving on with his life, he became obsessed with helping the U.S defend against terrorist attacks. After 9/11, Idema illegally entered Afghanistan to aid in the search for Osama Bin Laden. He portrayed himself as a terrorism expert to the media, and he and his vigilante team would raid compounds in their search. They also ran their own private prison, where they would torture prisoners. Idema worked hard to be acknowledged by the U.S Army, but he was clearly delusional, and his attempts to help ended up creating nothing more than a mess.
The Lavender Panthers
San Francisco in the 1970’s was a significant period in history for the gay community for a lot of reasons, and although many gay people lived in peace, there was also the underlying problem of gay bashing that law enforcement refused to do anything about. Verbal or physical abuse against a gay man was considered a minor offense, because there was the assumption that gay men were probably asking for it by propositioning everyone. Thus, The Lavender Panthers were formed. Led by Reverend Ray Broshears, an openly gay Evengelist preacher, the group prowled the streets and beat up anyone they thought was posing a threat to a member of the gay community. The group aimed to scare people away from gay bashing, and dispel stereotypes that gay men could not be physically threatening.
The San Juan Ixtayopan Lynch Mob
On November 23, 2004, three Mexican undercover federal agents were investigating a narcotics related crime when they were mistakenly lynched by an angry crowd who saw them taking pictures, and suspected they were trying to abduct kids from a nearby primary school. The agents were held and beaten for several hours, despite identifying themselves as law enforcement. The media covered the unfolding events from the beginning, including the victims’ screams for help. Local and federal authorities abandoned the agents, saying they were too far away to help, and even an attempt to rescue them from the mob would provoke a massacre. In the end, two of the agents were killed, and burned, and the third was severely injured.