Justice and the American People

First off, let me say that even as a blogging platform, there is no way any one person — no matter how profuse they write (or however  long of a post they write) — can exhaustively cover all of the issues of justice in our country.  So, yes, there will be issues not covered, but they are not being ignored.

Our Founding Fathers, in attempting to frame the nation they were building, had justice as one of the main thrusts of their work.  In the era they lived in, many nations claimed “equitable justice for all,” but the actual reality in those countries ended up far more often having two different sets of law/precedent — one for the rich and one for everyone else.

They made every attempt to enshrine equitable justice as a reality in our government systems.  But, sadly, any human endeavor can be corrupted by humans.

What would our Founding Fathers think of what is going on in our country today? I would imagine they would be horrified.  Let me give you just a few modern sentences that are supposed  “equitable judgment:”

  1. 1

    Brock Turner: College student “convicted” for raping an unconscious woman. This act was witnessed by two other males, who apprehended him until police could arrive. The prosecution did drop the actual rape charges, since there was no evidence he actually penetrated her with his penis. Evidence did prove he penetrated her with his fingers (still rape, but considered “sexual penetration with a foreign object”).

    Sentence was 6 months in the county jail (considered a more moderate location than one of the state prisons). The prosecution recommended 6 years in prison (given that California law mandates a maximum sentence of 14 years). Yet, Judge Persky handed down a 6 month sentence with a 3 year probation, with mandatory registration as a sex offender and mandatory parcipitation in a sex offender rehabilitation program.

    Given that the judge was aware that Mr. Turner had an extensive drug and alcohol problem both at Stanford and in high school. Police even found extensive proof on his own cell phone of photos and texts that he used mind altering substences, including LSD, ecstasy, marijuana extracts, and excessive alcohol. He had also been arrested (but, sadly, it looks like he was never convicted) for underage possession of alcohol. It would seem that the probation officials ignored this history in their advice to the judge, as they claimed he had a “lack of a criminal history,” and additionally felt that due to “his youthful age, and his expressed remorse and empathy toward the victim” he should be given a lenient sentence.

  2. 2

    Ethan Couch: A 16-year old boy who was illegally driving on a restricted license, speeding (doing 70 mph in a 40 mph zone), with a blood alcohol level of 0.24% (tested 3 hours later – and it’s three times the legal limit for adult drivers in Texas) as well as testing positive for marijuana and Valium (a.k.a. Diazepam).

    He stole two cases of beer from Walmart earlier that evening, and sped away with 7 passengers in his father’s pickup truck. He killed four people, seriously injured 9 (which included two from his own vehicle, one who is paralyzed).

    His family attorneys used affluenza as an actual defense. This is not surprising, as both of his parents committed crimes, but were given no serious repercussions for their acts. They allowed him to start driving himself to school at age 13 (you cannot even apply for a “hardship license”essentially a license only because there is a real family need — until the minor is 15). When school officials objected, his father threatened to “buy the school.” At 15, Ethan was cited for being a “minor in consumption of alcohol” and “minor in possession of alcohol,” but was NOT cited for any sexual offense even though he was found in a parked pickup with a naked, unconscious 14-year-old girl.

    He was “sentenced” to probation and time in a locked-down rehabilitation facility. He only received actual prison time (2 years…really?? Only 2 years?) after he ducked his probation officer, and joined his mother in Puerto Vallarta (resort town in Mexico).

    Yet, another man (Eric Bradlee Miller), who was in front of the same judge as in Couch’s case a decade previously, received a sentance of 20 years in prison for killing one man. The only difference between the two, besides the difference in number of victims? Couch was the child of multi-millionaires, while Miller lived in poverty (raised by his grandfather, a veteran trying to live on his disability benefits, because Miller’s mother was an addict and Miller’s father was no-where to be found).

  3. 3

    Thomas Boden: A 28-year-old man who raped a 2-year old girl (one of the children he was SUPPOSED TO BE babysitting for his girlfriend). Even with the witness statements of the toddler’s siblings, evidence of serious bleeding, an obvious vaginal tear and the man’s DNA all over every piece of evidence, the prosecutors felt they could not get a conviction, so they let him have a plea deal in exchange of a lighter sentence. That sentence was 10 years probation, no contact with the victim. He was NOT required to register as a sex offender nor attend any sex offender rehabilitation program.

I could go on, but I’m quite aware that some people will just ignore an unending list of criminals.

It doesn’t matter how heinous the crime, how much evidence there is, how many witnesses there are, more often than not a rich white male will receive little or no actual consequences for their actions.  And, NO, this is not “another rabid-feminist claiming that all white men are evil.” I don’t believe it is a crime to be white or be rich, but I do take offense when criminals who happen to be white and rich are treated differently than any other criminal.

The women they attack? More often than not they are judged as somehow “asking for it.” Perpetrators of similar crimes who are poor or who are “people of color” receive much harsher sentences. We have Native Americans being attacked by dogs while peacefully protesting, yet men like Cliven Bundy and his armed supporters are quietly negotiated with, and allowed to disperse with no arrests.  Then later, the same family (and other armed white friends) took over a federal building in Oregon.  At least this time 19 people, including Bundy, were charged even though they won’t see trial until 2017.

How can we still claim to have an “equitable justice system” when this is happening?

Our Founding Fathers believed that both the poor and the rich should receive the same justice.  That is one of the reasons why Justice is most often portrayed with a blindfold over Her eyes.  It is the crime and the evidence that must dictate whether a criminal is guilty or innocent. The defendant’s past may be considered, especially if that past includes a history of other criminal behavior (including drug and/or alcohol abuse), as it should have been assessed in the cases of Couch and Turner referenced above.

Also, please note my use of the word “equitable,” rather than either “equal” or “fair.” In our current culture, “equal” seems to give a knee-jerk reaction that people calling for equality want to somehow “steal” from the “rich” or even the “middle class.” And calling something “fair” gets derided as being naïve or gullible.

“Equitable,” on the other hand, is defined as impartial, just, even-handed, unbiased and unprejudiced.  That, in truth, is what most of us want.  Justice must be allowed to be blind, ignoring color, sexual orientation, creed, gender or any other supposed way to separate the human race.  We are ALL human and deserve equitable treatment.

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