No two cases illustrate this better than that of Robert Durst, the heir to a New York real estate empire, and David Stojcevski, an Ohio man who died in a Michigan jail last month.
You probably know the story of Durst, the subject of HBO’s brilliant crime documentary “The Jinx.” In 2001, Durst was arrested for murder in Texas. He managed to post a $250,000 bail to get out of jail and wait for trial in the comfort of his own home. But Durst went a step further — skipping bail and fleeing the state. He was eventually caught (and also eventually acquitted by a jury).
But because Durst was wealthy he could afford bail — even a huge bail amount of $250,000. The same cannot be said for many others.
Consider Stojcevski’s case. Stojcevski was a recovering drug addict and was clearly going through some problems. In 2014, he could not pay a $772 fine for careless driving and was sentenced to a Detroit-area jail for 30 days. Sixteen days into his sentence, he was found dead. The account of his death is pretty awful:
[Stojcevski was found] 50 pounds lighter and lying naked on the cell’s stone floor after suffering an “excruciatingly painful and slow” withdrawal from his addiction medication, according to a lawsuit filed by his brother.
Stojcevski’s cell in the Macomb County Jail was monitored 24 hours a day by a surveillance camera, and footage published by NBC station WDIV showed him naked, appearing to convulse and hallucinate in his final hours on June 27, 2014.
Putting aside the fact that authorities did not properly care for Stojcevski — an issue that’s now the subject of the family’s lawsuit — one wonders: How do you end up in jail for a careless driving charge? And why is the fine $772? That’s a lot of money for most Americans. At the same time, Durst, who was charged with murder, something exponentially more serious, was able to pay his way out of jail.
Stojcevski and Durst expose the bias of our justice system. When money plays such a key role in the dispensation of justice, it means those with means will always get a more justice than those without.