No Jury of Peers in CNMI Often Means No Justice for Foreign Victims

December 20, 2011

In a small, closely knit community where racism is thriving and hostility towards foreign workers is rampant can there be justice for a foreign worker who brings a case before a jury? A female foreign worker who was raped on Rota would say no. A female worker who filed an EEOC complaint against the Tinian Dynasty Hotel for being terminated in pregnancy-related issues would say no. A singer who worked for The Saipan Grand Hotel would probably not think so.

In a locale where the majority, or at least half, of the adult population is made up of disenfranchised foreigners can anyone expect justice in trials involving a foreign national if none of the foreigners are represented on juries? I say that is seriously doubtful.

If a foreign national commits a crime the sentences that are often handed down are more severe than if the crime was committed by an indigenous individual. If a foreign national is a victim of a crime there is a big chance that the criminal abuser will not even be prosecuted. Such was the case when former Saipan DPS officer Jesse Dubrall brutally beat an innocent Chinese worker. Such was the case  in hundreds of other incidents. If the case is actually prosecuted, then the victim should not count on a jury coming up with a guilty verdict against an indigenous resident who committed a criminal act. If by some remote chance a jury does find the individual guilty, then expect a lenient sentence that may including the additional insult of a judge-ordered apology letter to the victim.  Sure there are some exceptions, certainly in cases where the evidence is overwhelming and witnesses can collaborate, but in too many cases justice is not met for a foreign national in the CNMI.

Yesterday a jury, not of the victim's peers, found the Saipan Grand Hotel not responsible for the sexual harassment of a singer who was allegedly attacked by hotel's restaurant manager. The police were called after the attack, but apparently the case was not prosecuted.

This is not the first time the Tan-owned hotel was sued for sexual harassment by female employees. In 2004 female kitchen help filed an EEOC complaint against the hotel for sexual harassment at the workplace and won a large settlement.

This EEOC complaint against the Saipan Grand Hotel includes a statement that is so typical of many CNMI rape and sexual assault cases, including several where I personally knew the victims. When exposed, the alleged attacker attempts to get rid of the victim. From the complaint:
"After the sexual harassment occurred, Defendant Employers attempted to cover up the incident by trying to coerce Bunoan into leaving the CNMI by threatening to make a false
report to authorities regarding her immigration status."
A review of the briefs, declarations and other case files reveal that the attorneys for the hotel attempted to vilify the victim and excuse the sexual assault by saying that Roberto Alegre, the accused, was romantically involved with the victim.

The jury, not of her peers, came up with a not guilty verdict.

There is no other place on U.S. soil where the foreign population is so proportionally large, so oppressed, and so routinely denied of justice and basic rights.


Anonymous said...

Not that I don't agree with you on the immigration situation, however, it's quite presumptuous to imply that the jury didn't digest the evidence provided an produce a legitimate judgment. I've sat on two juries and they were a mixed lot, with a majority of Chamorros. The jury members did their due diligence and earnestly worked to produce a fair decision.

Wendy Doromal said...

Yes, there is a chance that the jury "digested the evidence" but from my observation, there is seldom justice in the CNMI for most foreigners at jury trials, especially those involving sexual assaults. Ask Guma Esperana workers or others who have worked with rape victims and victims of sexual assault.

As disenfranchised de facto citizens there are no juries of their peers for any foreign worker whether that foreign worker is the accused or the victim. That is a fact, and I would not want to be in either position in the CNMI. Justice is not equal -no matter what you argue.

Green Cards for All! said...

Jury venire panels typically include numerous Filipinos who have attained Lawful Permanent Residence and then U.S. citizenship through marriage and, increasingly in years to come, from being petitioned by their U.S.-born children 21 years old or older.

Moreover, the alleged harasser was a Filipino, too, who was promptly fired by the Saipan Grand Hotel.

I think it is most likely that the jurors honored their solemn oath.

Anonymous said...

I agree with what your overall sentiments are, as I have seen far too much racially charged abuse here in the CNMI. I can only shudder at what goes on in Tinian and Rota. This case sounded like a weak case anyway, BUT. make no mistake about it, Willy Tan runs Saipan.

Anonymous said...

For a new post perhaps.