Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Future Implications if our Youth is Delinquent

The issue of juvenile delinquents is complicated. Although what is done after the child has committed the crime is important, preventing the crime would be even better and more easily done. If schools in high-crime neighborhoods worked more to teach and educate the children and offer more programs about prevention of crime, the students could learn about what not to do before it is too late. For instance, the program of parens patriae removes a child from a negative environment. There is no reason for a child to grow up in an environment that encourages crime. But, once a child has gone down the path of inability to judge what is moral or immoral, the process of getting them to return to a life of quality is more difficult. Once the child has committed the crime, however, they should not be tried as adults because there is a chance that they can be rehabilitated and put back into society. At such a young age, it would be a waste to punish the children as if they were adults. They are far from being adults because the same experiences and knowledge have not been obtained.
If the juvenile crime rate does not diminish, the crime rate will continue to rise. Youth that was not rehabilitated will produce offspring that does not know what is right and wrong, because their parents will not have educated them. Therefore, it is my opinion that the issue of America’s youth and crime be solved by a better prevention program and rehabilitation center. If teens of a poor, crime-filled neighborhood were better educated about right and wrong and the laws and their consequences, crime rate may diminish. Once convicted, however, the youth should be taught and mentored so that criminal behavior will not be committed again. Youth can be taught, and it is our job to teach them because they are the future leaders of our nation.

Standards and Guidelines

Despite all of the controversies and questions surrounding it, the death penalty is still in place in many states today. Support for it has dropped because of the ambiguity surrounding capital punishment. As I said before, socio-economic issues continue to play a huge role in these controversies, because people who cannot afford private lawyers are provided defense by the state. Recently, there have been many reform efforts on enforceable standards for defense counsels. Reforms call for more money for defense counsels, claiming that court-appointed lawyers are paid well under $100 an hour.
The future is ambiguous as well. There are always going to be wealthy people who can afford the best lawyers, and there are also going to be those people who cannot afford a lawyer at all. Therefore, it is our job as citizens to help these indigents—we must make sure the defense counsels are skilled and experienced, and have the resources necessary to help their clients. Also, the court needs to define a set of standards for these lawyers. So far thirty-five of the thirty-eight states where the death penalty is legal have implemented standards for the defense counsels in capital cases.
It is important to stop the death penalty from being an arbitrary form of punishment. It is because of the appointment of defense counsels that capital punishment remains subjective—they vary by jurisdiction. For example, a judge might choose an attorney who openly supports the death penalty. Because of this, it is in our hands to make the changes that will make capital punishment fair. We must make defense counsels adequate by fighting for laws that establish standards and guidelines that must be met.

Future of Trial by Media

Truthfully speaking the future of media is in the hands of the public. It will follow any path that the public desires. According to the public sphere model theorized in the book The Business of Media: Corporate Media and the Public Interest, the more support and interest the public shows toward a subject, the more access the media is going to gain on the issue. Although in an ideal society it would be advisable for media to stop worrying about ratings and focus more on reporting accurate information, the future of media seems to lie in a very different direction.Noting current trends of media tampering in court cases, the media is going to continue to gain a more influential and powerful place in our society. Even U.S. Senator Larry Craig realizes the power of the media. In early September he claimed that his guilty plead was a result of pressure from media. Although Craig may have used the media as an excuse to protect his status in society, the fact that he used such a claim shows the power of media. If a politician who is constantly being exposed to media coverage can be pressured by the media, who’s to say that an average citizen cannot?Unfortunately, it is clear that trial by media will be a common trend in the future. It is a concept that directly conflicts the seventh amendment (Trial by Jury) and should be considered unconstitutional. If media continues to influence juror’s thoughts, then more and more citizens will be deprived of their basic rights. Unless the media’s boundaries and limitations in court cases are spelled out the ambiguity of media’s role in society will continue.

A standardized law limiting media power should be created in the future. It should spell out the power given to each form of media and how it can be used during, before, and after a court case. It would also be beneficial to completely ban any type of pre-trial media. This way they jury will only be presented with evidence when from the trial. This will allow individuals to have a fair trial under law rather than the media.

The "Glitch" Jury.

Consider the possible outcomes if we allow for personalities to take precedence over evidence in trials. This could lead to many citizens having unfairly tried cases. Also with practically no restriction on appeals, this could lead to a large number of appeals cases flooding the courts system. The courts already have enough cases to deal with. Furthernore, the corruption in court cases is a highly publicized issue. There is a lot of support and information, thanks to the media, that surfaces about today's trials. This media presence allows citizens and lawyers alike to become invested in cases, as well as, find discrepencies within them. When controversy arises about a specific verdict or there is questions surrounding a verdict, an appeal usually follows. Eventually, the verdict prejudice in some cases will gradually become noticeable and many defendants will inturn appeal verdicts. This infrigement on the law will permeate through the entire court system, thus causing question to the credibility of the court system, but more specifically, the jury. If the issue of personalities affecting the overall verdicts in trials is not dealt with to some degree, then the corruption in the American court system could be broadened even further than it currently is. There is enough corruption as it already stands in this country concerning bias; however, the courts are supposed to rely on the free and equal treatment of the American public. As the situation continues, the United States draws further and further away from the duties and promises cited in our constitution.
The problem with personalities affecting the overall outcome has really only one conclusion. It is in the best interest of justice that, in cases where there is obvious question, that the cases be given a second trial. However, in verdicts resulting in acquittal this would be a clear breech of the 5th Amendment clause “double jeopardy”. Therefore the only way to ensure to the best of our countries ability that the convicted are truly being convicted for thoughts of unreasonable doubt or that the innocent are being pardoned because they are truly innocent, the procedures in which we judge must be altered. There must be a trial by trial study of each case prior to it being tried, as well as during the trial. This could ensure that all the facts are brought out of cases that are indeed significant to the case at hand. This type of solution would require a modification to the procedure of law in the court systems.

A possible solution could be creation of second confidential Jury, personally referred to as the Glitch Jury. There job isn’t to declare guilt or innocence, but they are specifically used to seek out the problems that the other jury is barred from or swayed toward. The idea of the second jury or Glitch jury comes from the procedure of jury nullification. Jury nullification is the jury’s decision to acquit a defendant despite explicitly violating the law because the jury felt that the law or evidence was not applicable to the case. The jury would take the law into their hands. Therefore, a judge would call for a second jury to hear the case because the first jury’s individual feelings toward certain happenings were obviously prevalent. In this type of nullification; however, the second jury would not be brought post verdict. They would act during the trial. The second jury would get the chance to hear all evidence, including that in which the first jury was prohibited from hearing (circumstantial evidence). If something questionable surfaces, the Glitch jury would be allowed to confer with the first jury about suspicions. However, this would not be face t face and it would be under strict supervision. I think that bringing the Glitch jury in as a second ear would add more validity to any case. They would serve as a more valid impartiality in the court. Although, they would too have their prejudices, the fact that they are not declaring guilt or innocence allows them to look at the case from truly all sides.

There are already some methods being used to halt certain interferences, specifically by jury bias in jury nullification. Such practices include the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruling
Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure 23 (b), stating that jurors who individually are practicing jury nullification can be removed by the judge. Also, in some cases Judges have called for second juries to try cases when there is obvious jury bias affecting verdicts or neglecting laws. If a solution is not found, then there is a higher possibility on the infringement of the right of citizens and the unjust freedom for those who deserve them least. Court systems that stand on justice should act upon justice also. Furthermore, the United States will not be abiding by its constitutional standards.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Of Course There Are Poor People

The death penalty continues to be one of the most controversial issues in the United States. Is it fair to put individuals to death? What if they are innocent? Perhaps their court-appointed lawyer is not qualified, and therefore their defendant is found guilty. This last concern is extremely hard to resolve, and may not be fixed in our society because there will always be people with money and people without it.
In Erica Sheppard’s case the court-appointed lawyers were definitely not qualified, and she was sentenced to death although she was innocent. Sheppard knew her lawyers were not competent and would not allow her to testify on her on behalf, never telling her she had a constitutional right to do so. These problems can be fixed by simply making sure that the lawyers appointed by the court are qualified and able to handle capital cases.
Also, we must provide equal resources to all who are tried in capital cases. If we provide equal resources for them, then there will be no advantage of the rich over the poor. It goes along with the founding of our country and the ideals that we base our justice system on—“liberty and justice for all.”
Statistics show that 90% of those defendants who are appointed lawyers by the courts are virtually guaranteed a death sentence. This is startling and should be a warning to us that our justice system is truly flawed and needs to be worked on. The stories about these lawyers are appalling: Calvin Burdine’s lawyer slept through important portions of his trial, and Vinson Washington’s suggested to the defense psychiatrist that he was evil. Such stories should not be heard of and should not exist. Perhaps the only way to fix it now is to abolish the death penalty all together.

The UnAmericanism of being American?

The issues of personalities playing a role in the overall outcome of court cases is a seemingly inevitable occurrence some would say. It starts at the center of the American system. Since the beginning of its creation, the United States has been engulfed in this prejudice blanket. It began with the creation of the country by aristocrats and climaxed between the 19th and 20th centuries with slavery and segregation. Every aspect of society becomes entangled in the bias of society and the personal stereotypes derived from those bias. It begins at the countries core and it is unreasonable to assume that the United States can overturn a four-hundred year tendency; regardless of how unfortunate it is. It is too high an expectation to assume that a juror can release individual presumptions the moment they are asked. However, the real problem surfaces in the outcome. Personality influence swaying verdicts becomes highly problematic when the innocent are being condemned or the guilty are being pardoned. That is immoral under the constitution and goes against every aspect of legal doctrine. The purpose of our court system is to uphold justice and to ensure that the laws are abided by in this country. Injustice is upheld when the innocent are made to suffer and when the guilty are given “get out of jail free cards” based upon jury opinion being held above the evidence.
At the center of this plight lies the question of jury and judge. Whether it is proper to allow people to be tried under our existing legal procedure, specifically in criminal cases, and begs to question whether 12 people can act according to obligation? It’s an age old question that sparked controversial debates throughout the 19th century. According to Liberty periodical writer, Steven T. Byington, “…in the presence of such prejudices,
trial by jury becomes an instrument of injustice. In order that there should be an even chance of twelve men taken at random being unanimously willing to judge according to certain principles, it is necessary that there be not so many as six per cent of the population who reject those principles." So does the jury then have too much power? It could be argued yes because the constitution of many states allows for the procedure of jury nullification to take place. According to this law, the jury is allowed to take the law into their own hands and render a verdict of innocent despite overwhelming evidence. This would seem in support of the verdict swaying because if a jury is swayed in opposition to the law they can legally disregard it
How can one expect to abide in the land of the free when social bias is unmanageably wedded together with every aspect of society?

What Caused Media Tampering?

The heart of the problem with media tampering is the endless amount of rights the media is given and the conflicting ideas presented in each. Much of the debate surrounding media access to cases originates from various interpretations of the first Amendment to the United States Constitution. What truly constitutes freedom of press? Is the press permitted unlimited access to a case and allowed to report it however they choose? Halquist v. Department of Corrections, Holden v. Minnesota, Garrett v. Estelle, and KQED, Inc. v. Vasquez are all case that have debated the extent to which the media should be able to view executions or court cases. Without a clear set of guidelines and regulations, the media will continue to raid court rooms across the country and interpret the case how they choose.Part of the problem also resides in the public itself. Modern society has become so accustomed to drama and suspense filled stories that they refuse to acknowledge anything that is mundane. This places pressure on the media to spin stories and place a hook to everything that they report. It is not wrong for the media to report stories about the case, but slander of court cases is a crime in itself. The constant exposure by media establishes a fear for crime and through its reports creates a false image that capital punishment is the sole solution.
Many believe that limiting media’s access to cases prevents their influence on public opinion, but I feel that it encourages ignorance and assumption which is far more dangerous. The media often informs the public of cases and sparks public demonstrations for or against the case. If the media were not present, public opinion of the issue would diminish from society.
The solution to media tampering involves change in many aspects of how the case is presented to the public. We cannot prevent the public from being influenced by the media because it has become a critical aspect of life. The only way to help this problem is to ensure that credible information is being released to the public. In an ideal world it may be possible to balance the amount of information the media is given and ensure that it was received from sources such as a court transcript that are not meant to be biased toward the case. However, in reality eliminating bias from society is a task that is not plausible. Everyone has different opinions about issues, and no matter how hard one tries it is not possible of eliminating their bias from their thoughts or opinion completely.
The only viable solution to this problem is to ban pre-trial media. Pre-trial media reporting is a huge problem that affects how jurors view members of the case even before they come to stand. This should not be the case. In order to truly administer a speedy and fair trial under the judicial system, information given to jurors should only come from the case itself, not an outside source such as the media. Though eliminating pre-trial media reports may prevent the public from knowing about a case immediately, it protects those involved in the case. In the long run this solution will help create a more professional role for the media in court cases.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Youth as Adults? Absolutely Absurd.

The issue of juvenile justice is complicated. The reason this issue is so complex is that a lot of the crimes committed by juveniles are just as gruesome and horrible as those committed by adults. A very competent teen may know how immoral the acts are he or she committed, but the question lies in how severe the punishment should be with regards to the age of the youth. It would be horrible to throw away a life that could be fixed, but on the other hand, it would be horrible for the government to spend so much time and money attempting to fix this life and failing. Due to both sides of opinions, this issue remains controversial. Some of the crimes committed by our youth are just as cruel and brutal as those that are committed by an adult. For instance, a six-year old California boy almost beat a baby to death. How do we deal with such atrocities? How could we think it is acceptable to punish a child based on the same standards we have for adults? The child’s brain is a unique organ, in that its environment and experiences as a young child condition what knowledge this particular youth has when he or she enters late childhood or early adolescence. With all the knowledge we know about the brain and its development, how could we possibly hold a youth to the same standards that we hold adults? As the most advanced country in the world, we should know that the brain of an adult and a teen are completely different. The teen could easily be rehabilitated since the brain is still forming, and correct moral behaviors could be encoded into the brain.

Due to this scientific knowledge that we have on the brain, it is absurd the lack of emphasis placed on programs to prevent crime in high-crime neighborhoods. The youth is our nation's future. Is it not important what becomes of the United States of America in the future? Why wouldn't the government invest more funding in the application of intervention and after-care programs? In order for our society to continue operating smoothly, our youth must be cared for appropriately.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Personality Flaws

For hundreds of years, the American public has watched as some of history’s most famous court cases were tried within our borders. Across the United States, courtrooms have opened their doors to some of the most gruesome crimes in the world. They have been filled with the wealthy and downtrodden, the psychotic and the sensible, and the guilty and falsely accused. However, if there was one thing that surprisingly fills our courtrooms, it is the inevitable preconceptions that our impartial juries are incapable of hiding. Despite the impartiality that juries must have, some jurors are unable to act objectively.
It is not that they choose to go against the system, but it is a reaction to either certain happenings in specific cases or a result of controversial legal procedures. Such happenings include the choice of certain witnesses and defendants to take the stand, as well as the inability for juries to gather all evidence in trials. The individual personalities of the parties involved in some court cases shape the outcome of the trial. In many cases, the ultimate jury decision is not affected by the evidence, but rather it is affected by the juror’s opinion on the specificites of the trial. In some of the most high profile cases, verdicts have been questioned because the evidence does not fit the verdict. This blog serves to analyze the wrongdoings behind case outcomes derived from factors beyond physical evidence. In studying the root of prejudice in America and some specific cases, including the trials of
O.J. Simpson and the West Memphis Three, we will explore how individual behavior can unfortunately play verdict altering roles in the legal system.

Media makes its position known about the death penalty

Mark Twain once said that “There are only two forces that can carry light to all the corners of the globe... the sun in the heavens and the Associated Press”, but over the years the media has become even more powerful than he claims. It has gained an influential place in our society and sublimely manipulates our thoughts and opinions daily on many issues, including the death penalty. Through use of statistics, slander and diction the media has touched the hearts of many Americans and influenced them to believe in the death penalty. The media has succeeding in convincing the public that capital punishment is the only viable solution to the intensive amount of crime in our society. Support for the death penalty is known to have increased over the years mainly because of media reports. Sixty-three percent of the overall population is reported to support the death penalty. According to David Niven research conducted at Florida Atlantic University has proven the influence of mass media on the death penalty by analyzing the affect of various media articles on individuals thoughts about capital punishment. It is unfortunate that the media is trusted so blindly and can persuade the jury’s verdict on cases. This has caused innocent criminals like Joseph O’Dell and Dobie Williams to be put to death. Overall, the media’s portrayal of criminal cases and death row inmate’s through pre-trial narrative argues for the effectiveness of the death penalty, therefore bolstering support for capital punishment.

Juvenile Justice- Should Severe Punishments Be Used on our Youth?

The problem of juvenile delinquencies is a huge issue in America. Although children should be held to a different standard than the average adult, the question lies in how different of a standard should there be and how much punishment the young should be allowed to endure. When our nation’s children commit catastrophic crimes such as the VA Tech shooting or even something much more minor, how do we punish them? Some sources suggest that punishment may need to be tougher. However, there are those that think the punishment for juveniles needs to be much less strict and more of teaching forms. How to deal with juvenile crimes, both minor and major, in comparison to how an adult would be treated is a major issue of juvenile justice. Whatever is decided and debated, it is obvious that whatever the United States is currently doing is not working to stop of the school shootings and juvenile crimes. Personally, I believe that the juvenile delinquents need to be taught and educated about the rights and wrongs of their actions and decisions. In addition, should our nation's youth be allowed to even have the option to face death row? Are they old enough to have such a serious consequence? These are the questions we must ask when wondering what is best for the nation, as well as the nation's youth. While punishment is necessary, it can and shold be adjusted in respect to adult standards.

Socio-Ecomonic Issues and the Death Penalty

The death penalty and its use in the United States today are greatly contested. Many people believe that it acts as an injustice system and is biased—the death penalty unfairly affects those of low socio-economic status. A study in Virginia found that there was a clear connection between those who received the death penalty and the low quality state-appointed lawyers who defended them. Those who do not have enough money to pay for a private lawyer are therefore given one by the state. These lawyers are disproportionately found to be inadequate and many lose their license in the future. They are almost always undefended and understaffed, therefore those who are able to afford their own lawyers are more likely to avoid being sentenced to death. Those in favor of capital punishment argue that every defendant receives a lawyer regardless of economic status. They believe that the court-appointed lawyers are equal to those privately hired by defendants with money. However, this proves untrue when looking at the quality of the lawyers—many of the court-appointed lawyers have never handled a capital case before. There are only two ways to fix this problem: appoint lawyers who are experienced and can handle capital cases, or abolish the death penalty completely.