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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The scales of (un)justice

How must pain must a widow endure? Bear with us. Elizabeth Bernoskie's husband, a Rahway police officer, was slain on duty in 1958. Four decades later, someone was finally charged with his murder: Robert Zarinsky, in prison for the murder of a 17-year-old Atlantic Highlands girl in 1969. Zarinsky was linked to the Bernoskie murder by his sister, who said Zarinsky and a cousin said they killed a police officer. The cousin admitted his role and served three years in prison. But Zarinsky beat the rap in 2001. The jury foreman said the jurors believed Zarinsky did it, but that the prosecutor's case was too weak to convict him.

End of story? Not at all. Elizabeth Bernoskie later filed a wrongful death suit against Zarinsky and was awarded $9.5 million in 2003. Zarinsky posted his $150,000 mutual fund as a down payment. But on appeal, the award was tossed out Tuesday. Since Zarinsky was cleared, he couldn't be sued in civil court in connection with the murder. As a result, the $150,000 has to be returned to Zarinsky. But Bernoskie doesn't have that money to give. She distributed it among her six children. So now Zarinsky can seize her assets, including the home where she lived with her husband so long ago.

Nothing is just in this story. A widow didn't get the closure of seeing her husband's killer get what he deserved at long last. And now, thanks to judges strictly applying the law, that man can boot her out of her house. This may be how the wrongful death law works in this state. But in this case, the outcome was what was wrongful. The prisoner wins, the widow loses and justice isn't served. And it's perfectly legal.


Anonymous reality stranger than fiction said...

How awful. You last line gives me chills.

9:12 PM, July 11, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is a shame that she has to suffer, but her attorny should have provided better advice. Hopefully Zarinsky will not go after her, but if he does her attorny should pay the difference for his screw up.

12:44 PM, July 13, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This outcome is the result of either a bad state law or a bad appeals court judge.

6:26 PM, July 15, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

when you have clowns in robes sitting on the bench we can expect no better

6:02 PM, July 21, 2007  

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