March 2 2017
Is the criminal justice system fair?
Does it really work?
The answer to that question depends on whose eyes you are looking through. The victim of a crime sees it one way, the police another, the prosecutor yet another and the defendant and his attorney still another. If you are black or Hispanic in a basically white community, do you really get justice? If you are charged with a sex crime, are you going to get a fair shake in the Courts? If you are poor, do you get the same “justice” as someone rich? Are the judges on the side of the prosecutors and cops? Is there a double standard when it comes to police misconduct? Does the truth really matter? As a criminal defense attorney, I get these questions all the time. Many people have lost faith in our criminal justice system.
We are a country of laws. The laws are passed by the Legislative branch of Government. The legislators are elected officials and in theory are supposed to represent the will of the people. The sad truth, is, that to get elected, some candidates resort to fear mongering and exaggerate so called “problems”. The truth is that bad laws create bad situations.
If marijuana was legalized fifty years ago would we have the Mexican cartels?
Did prohibition cause the rise of organized crime?
Should prostitution be a crime?
Would we have human trafficking if prostitution was legal?
Is drug addiction a medical problem or a medical issue?
The laws are enforced by the police and the prosecutors. State attorneys are elected officials.
Sheriffs are elected officials. To get elected, they do the same thing the legislators do. How many times have you heard “I will be tough on crime”. Grady Judd is a prime example. In Polk County, they run sex stings and create crime and then claim they are protecting the citizens of their community. The answer is crime prevention, not criminal prosecution. If people had education and opportunity would they not be less likely to turn to a life of crime. As a criminal defense lawyer, and as a taxpayer, I would rather educate someone than incarcerate someone.
Judges are elected officials. In the criminal Courts however, most of them are former prosecutors. Some who have only ever worked for the State unfortunately at times seem to be biased. A judge’s true role is to be fair, not tough. For some, that is a hard line to walk. In my experience, in doing this for over thirty years, I have found that the older judges seem to have better “perspective”. With age, comes wisdom.
The criminal defense lawyer provides the only check and balance in an unfair system.
We are the ones who push to change unfair laws. We are the ones who cross examine in search of the truth. We are the ones who challenge the police when they exceed the law. We are the ones that appeal unfair rulings. We are the ones who challenge unconstitutional laws. We are the ones who keep us from becoming a “Police State”. We are the ones who challenge racial profiling. We are the ones who expose illegal search and seizures. We are the ones who fight “forfeitures” and police misconduct. We are the ones who sue the police when they beat someone. We are the ones who expose horrific prison conditions. The next time you hear someone like Nancy Grace slamming a defense lawyer, the next time you hear some TV commentator professing outrage at a not guilty verdict, think twice.