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The Legal System's Double Standard

August 14, 1994

* Your article, "Attack at Party Probed as Hate Crime," (Aug. 9) was discussed the next day at Los Amigos of Orange County.

Ours is a cross-section of Latino community leaders that has met weekly since 1978. We were appalled to learn of the brutal Portola Hills ambush, Aug. 5, that put 15-year-old Ruben Vaughan in Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center with a broken nose and jaw, a five-inch gash on his left cheek and stab wounds to his lower back and left knee. It is reported that a gang of 20 to 30 young men witnessed and/or participated in this setup for mayhem. It might have turned into murder.

Will (the) Orange County district attorney take the unusual step of personally signing complaints charging each person in this gang with felonious conspiracy to commit aggravated assault? Will the surgeon who crusades against youth violence release to the media an X-ray of the trauma to Ruben Vaughan's face and the metal plate now inserted in it? Will local newspapers run pictures of suspects in courtroom cages? Will the local assemblyman, running for reelection, press for laws that would forever bar the return of any suspect (even if acquitted) to his school?

Such things happen in Orange County, but they are unlikely to in this case.

On another Friday night (Oct. 15, 1993), two groups of students had an unplanned fateful encounter in a South County beach parking lot. No one lured anyone anywhere. One group saw themselves as fleeing. The other thought they were about to be run down and threw whatever they could put hands on. In a one-in-a-million moving shot, a paint roller-rod speared through an ear into a young man's brain. One of the first lawmen on the scene classified it as a "fluke" and said it was a case of "being at the wrong place at the wrong time." His views were howled down by vengeance-seekers. The D.A.'s office filed murder charges against six young men. The crusading surgeon released the horrific head X-ray to the media. Suspects were photographed in courtroom cages or full-color in jailhouse orange. The local assemblyman proclaimed that he backed legislation that would forbid their return to their school, whatever the outcome.

In the present instance, Ruben Vaughan is African American. In the earlier and continuing case, young men charged with murder are Latinos. If you thought justice was color-blind, you might be surprised how orange it can be in this county.

AMIN DAVID

Chairman, Los Amigos of Orange County

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