Wednesday, October 31, 2007
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.
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.
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 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
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.
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?
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
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
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.