On September 29th, the closing arguments in the Charles Tan murder trial took the whole process from strange to bizarre. After the Tan defense team decided – for the first time in the trial – to directly finger Charles’ mom as the culprit, the prosecution just seems to have gone off the rails. Rare as it is to see gunplay in a Rochester courthouse, it’s even less likely to see a prosecutor waving one around in people’s faces.
Honestly: it really seems from outside the courtroom that the prosecutor just didn’t see this sudden defensive play coming.
If he didn’t see it coming, certainly most of the rest of us did not. In fact, looking back, it’s sort of strange just how quickly the narrative of Charlie Tan, Amazing Young Victim, developed after the initial reports. Almost as soon as we heard Charles Tan’s name, the narrative already seemed set in stone. He is a victim of domestic violence – no one disputes that even now – and an otherwise upstanding citizen and student. Charlie, we heard from almost every quarter, was nowhere near this evil.
And I think most of us, lulled into this bedtime story of Charlie the Innocent, expected the trial to be quick and easy. Whether you thought he was going in the tank or not, everyone seems to have been assuming that this was going to be straight forward. It turns out to be nothing of the sort.
Did the prosecution get lulled as well? It feels like they were. Not solely because of the drama of yesterday’s closing statements.
More so, it seems like a high-profile case like this wouldn’t even make it into court without much more evidence. We have all been treated to the gory details of the crime scene – a body sitting dead for at least a few days, a dog having eaten the carcass. But gory details don’t prove who did it, and on this level, the law seems to have stopped well short of doing due diligence.
Because the question of whether Jean or Charles Tan committed the crime really feels like it should have been the first thing they checked out. Yes, there was a confession. No, neither Charles nor Jean seem to have been willing to cooperate with any other leads. But if this had been some brother on Child St, you can bet the cops would have grilled him within an inch of his life if they’d thought he wasn’t being straight.
Are rich people from Pittsford simply too beyond the pale to grill? Did everybody just assume Charles was telling the truth? If he was, why was there a days-old body when cops arrived? How is a days-old dead body not cause for some intense examination, regardless of what anyone says on the scene?
Maybe no one is all that interested in justice for the victim in this case. I can hardly blame anyone for feeling that way. But a crime was committed. Even if I can appreciate the well-founded contempt for Jim Tan and can hope for the best for a victim of domestic violence, our society, not Jim Tan, deserves a conviction in this case. And we don’t even know whom to convict.