History has demonstrated that people’s lives can be easily destroyed through false accusations. One famous example is the astronomer Galileo who, in the 16th century, postulated that the sun does not revolve around the earth – which is what the church believed – but that the earth revolved around the sun. Galileo avoided torture and death by recanting his thesis, which we now know is true. This famous story is a remarkable example of “My mind is made up, don’t confuse me with the facts.” Galileo’s story can be used as a metaphor for challenging people’s perceptions—that what they hear, may not be the whole truth.
Fast forward to Christmas Day 2012… Jeanette Ryken’s story begins the inspiration for Injustice In The Legal System® (IJLS). For Jeanette – a certified scuba diving instructor, who had spent decades of her life on the ocean – the nightmare began that Christmas day resulting in the immediate loss of her home, business, and a lifestyle that she loved. In an instant she was confronted by five legal authorities and the ugly reality that her husband and underage 17-yr-old niece had become illicitly involved, and together had contrived a malicious story. False accusations were filed in police reports to the local sheriff, Coast Guard, Homeland Security, Immigration, and FBI on Christmas morning, alleging that Jeanette had attempted to commit murder by throwing them overboard. The police convinced the pair to escalate the complaint to “attempted murder.” Jeanette’s husband had been told a few months previously that Jeanette had decided to divorce him due to his ongoing abusive behavior. The local newspaper sensationalized the event depicting the story as reading like a teenage novel. Headlines reported “an attempted murder” on the high seas.
In the days, weeks and months that followed, things got progressively worse as Jeanette became caught up in the Judicial System. Deliberate lies were captured by her husband’s revealing deposition proving his guilt. Factual evidence including a government document, eventually proved that he had begun planning his scheme several months in advance. Her locally retained lawyer omitted presenting the husband’s deposition and other important evidence in Court. Lengthy delays occurred, and regrettably, Jeanette’s case was negatively impacted. The FBI and other authorities responsible
for the investigation refused to listen to Jeanette’s side of the story, or to hear evidence from her neighbors’ concerns for the illicit relationship they witnessed between her husband and underage niece. In addition there were several incidents of collusion, which included police bullying and a District Attorney attempting to force Jeanette to plea bargain.
Jeanette sought refuge living in Canada with her parents but for several years remained convinced and terrified that she would be extradited back to the U.S. to face a Grand Jury trial. Ultimately no charges were ever laid. The most devastating aspect of this story, however, is the division of her previously very close-knit, loving family. Jeanette’s brother and his wife – parents of the 17-year-old – along with a younger brother and his wife, to this day, have refused to listen to Jeanette’s side of the story. Instead they continue to demonize their sister rather than acknowledge the substantial evidence that clearly shows how a 17-year-old troubled teenage girl was easily manipulated and used in executing her uncle’s evil scheme.
Jeanette’s parents, in their efforts to seek family reconciliation, retained a professional international mediator, Ernie Tannis, in July of 2013. However the brothers and their wives have refused all efforts to “come to the table.” They remain distant and detached in their relationships with their parents and sister; even to the point of denying access to grandchildren. To Jeanette’s great credit, and the many who have stood by her from the beginning, including the limitless support of Mr. Tannis, she has been gradually rebuilding her life. Jeanette has been determined to transform the adversity she has experienced into an opportunity to help others who find themselves similarly victimized, wrongly accused and at the mercy of a dysfunctional system that treats the innocent as though they are guilty.
“My mind is made up. Don’t confuse me with the facts.”
As in the Galileo story, Jeanette’s brothers immediately took the position “my mind is made up, don’t confuse me with the facts.” Both Galileo and Jeanette are phenomenal examples of the idea of wanting the truth of their story to prevail, but caught in a storm of lies, threats, and pressures to concede.
IJLS Founders themselves, friends, and strangers have also experienced the dysfunction of the judicial system in the realms of biased and fraudulent investigations, collusions, intentional omissions, and forced plea bargains.
Many unanswered questions have resonated in the minds of those who have searched for justice and not found it. What can be done judicially when mediation is desired but individuals and parties refuse to show up at the table? How can we, IJLS and the legal system, support people who are wrongfully accused? How do we counter the lies and falsehoods?
Jeanette’s case as a cause is the rationale and inspiration behind Injustice In The Legal System® (IJLS). The intention of IJLS is to create a charitable organization to educate and to bring people into a dialogue about a system that has become dysfunctional and broken.
Many people on this planet have an “injustice” story. The IJLS community brings us together. There’s power in sharing our knowledge, resources, and experiences. When people unite, there’s personal growth, awareness, support and synergy for a grassroots movement to evolve and become a positive force for change in our legal systems.