There is an old saying that, “Justice is Blind,” but is it really true? Does the legal system operate on a wholly, impartial basis? Is law about … law? Could there be changes made to the legal system in America, as it is today, that would significantly benefit the entire populous? Could there be changes made in easy ways that could be just as easily adopted and yet overwhelmingly effective? The following is a list of ideas, thoughts, and suggestions to the world, about the justice/legal system- and what can be done about it.
But, first: What is Justice? Themis, or “Lady Justice,” is the allegorical personification of the moral force in the American Justice System. Justitia, as she’s also referred to, stands tall, with her long hair, her long robes, and her balance scales and sword of truth at the County Courthouse in Memphis, Tennessee. From the 15th century on, the figure of Justitia represented a criminal justice system where race, creed, nationality, age, wealth, religion, and other factors were of no consideration. She represented a justice system whereby only truth could tip the scales in her hand and her sword of justice would be cast upon the accused with a fair, and impartial hand.
And, of course, since the very beginning of a criminal justice system in America – this has been a joke. Setting aside all of the color and racial pervasiveness in the criminal justice system (both on top and below), and setting aside the bias in law enforcement at all levels, justice is anything but blind. The misuse of evidence, the dog and pony show tactics, and the use of plea bargains has turned courtrooms into politically motivated showrooms where the elite are excused, the poor are condemned, and somewhere in the middle of it all – is supposedly – justice.
And, while this article could go on and on about the abuse of law by those who represent and enforce it, anyone can do the research, spend the time inquiring about it, or have the unfortunate luck to live it, to learn the truth for themselves. So, the remainder of this article is dedicated to some ideals that could not only be easily implemented nation-wide, but create a new era of Justice in which the Sword of Truth could once again, strike true:
1. Evidence: There are plenty of rules governing hearsay evidence, but they don’t really hit to the heart of the issue, which is: “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Reasonable doubt is the standards of evidence that when a case has been presented, it must be believed either by a Judge or Jury, that the weight of the evidence presented, beyond a reasonable doubt, stands in favor of, or against, the accused. Really? That’s justice? Think about it – you’re at home, asleep, and it’s Tuesday. There are gunshots outside, and you wake up to find the police kicking in your door. They found a gun hidden in your trashcan. Some other neighbor remembers you fighting with the neighbor who’s now dead, even though that never happened (think that can’t happen? If you REALLY believe that memories are so factually inaccurate that they can send you to jail – you should read about it). And, now – you’re in court.
Well, that is, after spending several months in jail, meeting with attorneys that spend an exorbitant amount of time telling you how much you could be screwed (because they don’t want you to sue them if you lose), and you look like crud. Of course, if you were rich, you would be back at home, paying attorneys to tell you how awesome everything’s going to be – but we’ll discuss that in a minute. You get drug into court, hopefully wearing a suit, not the foot and hand chains and orange jail outfit they threw you into, and put in front of a judge. You’re terrified. Your polygraph is inadmissible. Why? You told the truth and passed that you didn’t commit murder, but see, polygraphs that are passed are not admissible in court because it’s considered an inaccurate science. Oh … but had you failed the polygraph, that is admissible against you because the prosecution can use it … hmm… those justice scales don’t look so impartially balanced anymore … it’s like … it’s been somehow unfairly tipped against you (like someone put some political or financial motivation into the pot ….
And, now, you’ll spend days listening to a prosecutor paint this elaborate picture of how terrible you are. They’ll show pictures of dead bodies (because juries and judges are really moved by that), crying family members (because that also moves a jury), a gun that was found in YOUR trash, a witness with a false memory that nobody can prove is accurate … and your chances?
Less than 50/50. Which 50? Well .. that’s another topic. For now, you’re facing life in prison for a murder you didn’t commit. Think that’s crazy? Spend a few minutes looking it up, or call the innocence project, or spend some time being responsible and do your own homework … and you’ll see it for yourself. This happens everyday. So, the new recommendation here is that: Only evidence that provides factually accountable proof, and that cannot be brought into question, can be presented. So, no more pictures of dead bodies because frankly, a crime was committed, someone’s dead, and that fact is not in dispute. No more crying family members and a really good theatrical performance to make a Judge or Jury “hate” the accused, because the scales of evidence are to be fairly balanced and the sword of truth is to be about FACTS. Now, let’s see how the court case would go:
Evidence: Nothing. Why? Sure – there’s a gun in your trash, the bullet shot could be linked to the deceased, but if there’s no fingerprints on it, there’s no evidence. If there’s evidence on you physically (like the gun flash on your hand), no fingerprints anywhere, and no one to say you did it. What the authorities have is: Evidence that a crime was committed – but not about who did it. Sure, the justice system hates that – but that’s due to political and financial motivations – not justice.
2. Accountability: If authorities such as police and sheriff’s were held to the letter of the law about illegal entry, illegal detainment, illegal search and seizure, and other facts which are frequently thrown out of court – they would start doing the job right. Would that make it more difficult? YES. And, that is an UNFORTUNATE truth. But, the constitutional protections afforded to the men and women of America are there for a reason! If prosecutors were fired for sending innocent people to prison, withholding evidence, and even to the point that they, themselves, would face jail time – there would be a WHOLE lot less trials!! That’s right! Because, without hard-core evidence, they wouldn’t dare put themselves in the line of fire!! If Judges could be fired, reprimanded without pay, and suffer other consequences for cases that were overturned or reversed, judges would be a whole lot more careful! And, law enforcement that used illegal tactics to obtain evidence – even if it was possibly shady, face unpaid jail time and a case WILL be dismissed. That would throw out a LOT of cases under the current system. No – this doesn’t hurt things, it just means law enforcement has to be accountable – something that the people of America should be expecting anyway.
3. NO MORE PAID LAWYERS (I know the lawyers around the country are freaking out right now because their ‘lawyery’ senses are tingling!!): Prosecutors are state paid, so why not all lawyers? How come some people get to pay for really great legal defenses while those left to public defenders are just thrown under the bus when the case is, “too hard,” or “takes too much time”? If all criminal defense attorneys were state paid – the defenses would 1) All go to heck because without money, attorneys don’t usually try, and 2) would all be of equal value. This one can’t go into effect without numbers 1 and 2, because with a public defender who just doesn’t care, everyone would be in jail!! So, the stricter evidentiary and accountability rules for the prosecution have to be in place!
4. No more plea bargains: While plea bargains are good for the innocent who are trying to avoid going to prison for things they didn’t do – and there is sufficient evidence over the years to substantiate that this is a HUGE problem – it also opens the door to criminals making pleas for lighter sentences and prosecutors pushing every case through – even those without evidence. Instead, a new standard should be put into place whereby, if the evidence does not, in its entirety (or some reasonable facsimile thereof), stand up to the new standards of evidence (number 1), and/or there is some evidence of law enforcement abuse/withholding of info in the case, and/or there are some other factors which can point to more than one person being responsible, etc. and so on, then guess what: false start plea. That person is released and cannot be brought back into trial shy of 1 of 2 options: A) They admit they did it, or B) There is a factual, scientific, unbreakable piece of evidence (like a video of them doing it that can be fully substantiated not to be photoshopped!). And, the accountability for law enforcement and prosecutors means that there will be consequences for them for bringing this person to trial (albeit much less severe). Guess what? A WHOLE LOT FEWER cases will EVER be brought to trial.
5. Trial by Jury: Ended. This is a very difficult issue – but must be properly re-dressed without violating the constitutional right to a jury by one’s peers. Because, frankly, a jury is rarely, if EVER, by one’s peers. Prosecutors get to excuse people they think would favor you. Prosecutors get to look for people with an 8th grade or lower education (yes … look it up). And, what you’re left with is a random muck of people who: mostly don’t want to be there and would say anything to end it and a few who do want to be there because they hate other people or are drama-buffs and are definitely not the kind of people you want on a jury. Juries need to be comprised of two groups: one selected solely by the defending attorney, and one selected solely by the prosecution. Some standards will have to exist between both sides including identification of prejudice factors, and the prosecution’s side will have to be much more scrutinizing on the matter, including limiting their searches to physical, economical, and other types of peers. Yes, the defendants should be able to include friends and associates? Sound like I’m being biased? Not really – why? Because who else would know the defendant, their nature, their general personality, and their background, better? This would save a LOT of time and provide the defendant with a real peer group of people that actually know them – and it would have to be said out loud in court, that even though you know this person – we all make mistakes – and the decision would have to be made fairly with that knowledge in place (although the factual evidence rule in number 1 fixes a lot of issues). Each jury member would have to stand up separately in court and give an explanation, in writing, as to why they felt the defendant was innocent or guilty. And, with a split jury like this, the judge would be the final decision maker – period. Truly, the best jury would be one made up of a consortium of retired judges with a background that is well established to be a 50/50 in the courtrooms and have shown a REAL propensity toward fairness. But, the idea is the same: a jury of one’s peers is rarely what it is. These people are not knowledgeable with the science of the case and therefore cannot truly make a fully, informed decision. So – yeah – jury’s gots’ ta’ go!
6. No defendant present: This one’s a little more complex. But, to get rid of prejudice in the courtroom, there would have to be some sort of system that took away the visual site of a defendant. No more chains, no more prison garb, and no more scared individual standing there (unless, under number 1, the evidence was clear).
7. No more media: To end all political motivation, judges and district attorneys could not “run” for office and would have to be appointed. Salaries for all, law enforcement all the way up through judges, could not be affected by the number of “cases” they try. No media would be in the courtrooms any longer as that drives political motivation galore – unless a case had already gone through the previous 6+ levels of changes in how they’re handled. And, even if media was still in court rooms – it could not put out anything about a case until after the trial was complete. Too many people are prosecuted on television – and no matter the amount of “instructions” given to anyone – that can make or break a case. Too much media and hype has, for far too long, driven people with fear and motivations that are not so pure – meaning that no “peer”, in today’s society, would be a fair and impartial peer.
8. Registries: Registries need to go. They serve little purpose to law enforcement. The only thing registries do is feed the vigilante-ism of civilians, promote discrimination, violate the constitutional right to serve time and then be set completely free, and create hardships so that people can’t turn their lives around. Whether there’s a registry or not, those people will have a record with law enforcement for the rest of their lives – and that’s it. There’s no need to track them because 1) If they do something bad again, you won’t be able to do anything but arrest them after the fact whether you had them on a registry or not, and 2) if they lie about it – you won’t know where to find them anyway. Registries were put into place as an extreme measure from overzealous people who had suffered losses in their families thanks to the bad guys. We have a justice system and a constitution to deal with jail, prison, and probation (or no jail time) – and a way for people to financially make amends and receive psychological help. What we need from there – is for these people to turn their lives around and recover. That’s how we make the world a better place – because everyone – in jail or not – will mess up, hurt someone else in one fashion or another – and repentance and forgiveness are the solutions you would want – so why not make that EQUAL across the board and keep justice, blind?
Now – I get it. Law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, and the system in general already has enough problems trying to handle the cases that come through. Oft times, things are dismissed that shouldn’t be just because no one wants to deal with it – but that’s part of the problem. When the number of cases are reduced, it will actually make it easier on the justice system to properly handle the case loads. When the changes suggested herein are made, officers will be able to have the support and accountability they deserve. When the American people up the ante on those in charge – the results will be less sticking people in jail and more finding real criminals. The results? Safer streets. Less paranoia. And, a happier country.
These changes are not just for innocents – they are designed to make sure that the right people go to jail. Someone caught with a computer crime where 60% of the evidence says they did it but 40% says they didn’t – means that the evidence is 0% accurate. IP addresses, spoofing, hacking, and other crimes set up innocent people. Guns thrown in trash set up innocent people. Racism and social prejudice set up innocent people.
And presumably, right now, you reading this – are innocent, until proven guilty. Unfortunately, the justice system literally operates the other way around (and if you don’t believe it, look it up, there are plenty of articles out there, and they’re not conspiracies or crazies, they are factual evidence of constitutional violations). All of the previous links are separate links, just to make the point – this is a real problem. And, why should you care?
Because – you have a fair shot, along with everyone else, to be on the list of those who would be prosecuted for something you did not do. Of course, the news is telling you everyday about how much danger you’re in. The drama pushes you into fear. You believe that there is terror everywhere you go. But … the news tells you that to keep you watching and sell their stories. And, it works! You have a RIGHT to NOT live in fear, to maintain innocence, and to be represented fairly. Yes, there will be those who could use extreme measures if these changes were made, to make it look like bad guys were running rampant – but people can be smarter than that. And, there are those bad guys who will slip through the cracks – but they already do now. What needs to stop is using innocent people to plug those same cracks – and you’re the innocent person who does NOT deserve to be punished.
What doesn’t need to happen right now is tearing apart the hard working men and women of law enforcement and the justice system – especially those who are working hard to do their job right and believe in what they’re doing. Instead, change needs to be made at the executive level. Yes, it would be terrifying to be a D.A. who tried somebody for murder and sent them to jail falsely only to find out that they were now going to jail for doing it. But – that’s reality. In real life, when people screw up, they lose their jobs. When people hurt an innocent – they go to jail. There’s a HUGE difference between accidents, and sending someone to jail or prison and screwing up the rest of their entire lives!
You may think twice from now on when you find out someone’s been convicted of something until you hear the whole story – well, hopefully you will …