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Realities of Justice

When we think about what a swift and fair trial is, as the defendant, we expect that we will be allowed to get our side of the story out, have an impartial jury, and have a fair proceeding. While that is the intent of the system, it is not always that cut and dry. Here are some problems:

1) Juries are people. In jury selection in most states, both the prosecution and defense get to argue over prospective jurors as to who is likely to be impartial (or more specifically, they try to argue that a person sympathetic to their side IS impartial). So we start out with a group of people that may or may not actually be impartial to the case.

2) Proecutions can be politically driven. In some specific instances, the public outcry for something to be done (mislabeled as justice) can bring about prosecutuins that may be improper or at least inappropriate. Looking back, we see quite a few times (I was aware of this beginning in the 90s) that prosecutions were taken up vigorously due to an election year and the "tough on crime" mantra that permeated that region or society at large. The same goes for sentencing. In quite a few cases, people have been over sentenced due to political pressure of "cracking down" on whatever the new drug is, or a particular crime that has been in the news.

3) We can be tried in the media. At what might be the height of social media, we see a great deal of opinions, facts and opinions masquerading as facts. Sorting through all of this can be a mess, but sometimes the voice of the masses drown out all others. Social and traditional media can influence juries, judges, prosecutors and anyone else that is associated with the trial into places that we wouldn't have otherwise been. Throughout the last 15 years, cases that severely lack evidence have been brought to trial in the name of "getting justice". Media allowed a narrative to be created, which pushed action by the citizens, which put political pressure for prosecutions, while simultaneously tainting jury's with the pervasive narrative. In a perfect world, this would mean that the truth is known to all and justice is done. In reality, it means that a jury of your peers could disregard the evidence inside the courtroom in favor of what they already "know to be true".

Folks, the system doesn't work the way it should, and its because of people. No changing that. All we can do is be prepared, do everything right under the law and under our own moral code. As Varg Freeborn puts it in his book Violence of Mind, "you get the justice you can afford to pay for."

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