Thursday, July 14, 2011

Order, Order, in the Court

One of the ways writers get new ideas is to watch the drama that takes place in our courts, and this last couple of months has been a windfall of character studies. What I find remarkable, besides the tragedy of playing out people's lives in the media, is the fact Americans don't have a clue how our justice system works.

The reason there's a blindfold over Lady Justice's eyes is our system doesn't actually profess to provide justice, but strives to perfect the rule of law. In other words, the legalese has to be precise, the justice comes out of the rule book not a sense of justice we feel when serving on a jury. The judge's instructions often lead the jury into never-never land, because of how the rules have to be played out.

If a serial killer is on trial, his past crimes are not allowed to sway the jury's verdict for the current case on trail. All that slaughter in the past is benign and could hurt the defendant's current situation to convince you he's really a sweet guy.

If the defense attorney plays by the rules and the prosecution leaves any tint of doubt, then the jury has to acquit. Ever wonder why we have so many criminals on the streets, crazies that commit crimes over and over. It's really hard to nail a criminal down, so they all plead innocent and snicker at the justice system. And if you're a clever man with money, oh baby, its rather easy to buy a certain level of justice.

It's not all bad. If you break the law, and what you did is in the books, you most likely will go to jail. But the clever man does something totally evil and deceptive where there is no law written about it and always gets away with it the first time. That's how the economic meltdown occurred in the first place. Wall Street sharpies created financial instruments that were highly unethical, but there was no law against it on the books. We see the injustice, the law only sees from behind the blindfold.

The main reasoning behind blind justice is it's better not to punish the criminal than to prosecute an innocent man. I think that is admirable, but does it work? If the penal statistics can be believed, bunches of innocent people get locked up all the time. The only thing saving their bacon these days is DNA testing. The blindfold test didn't do them any good.

What I would like to see is well versed writers that have studied our legal system come up with a better adjusted legal system for the 21st century and beyond. It needs to be better, and maybe the facilities for holding criminals wouldn't be so chocked full, if the legal system provided stronger deterrence against committing crimes in the first place.

As far as the tragic drama of a court room - that's what feeds us writers. We could never dream up such fantasy on our own.

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