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An American System of Justice 2.0
There was a moment the other day after the Derek Chauvin jury was sequestered when Joe Biden said that the evidence against Chauvin was ‘overwhelming’ and that he ‘prayed for the right verdict,’ by which President Biden clearly meant a guilty verdict. At that moment, I bit my tongue waiting for for the verdict to be announced, thinking that if the verdict is ‘not guilty’ on all counts (which I thought was possible, given that George Floyd had taken enough fentanyl to kill three people – to me that provided a potential for reasonable doubt), then Joe Biden would then talk about how there is obviously something very, very wrong with our system of justice.
The verdict came back guilty on all counts, and I briefly gave a sigh of relief. The American system of justice, I thought, would live to see another day.
Shortly thereafter, a Chicago cop (Nicholas Reardon) shot a knife-wielding teenager (Ma’Khia Bryant) who was in the process of stabbing two people. Nicholas Reardon very likely prevented a murder or two. LeBron James response? He tweeted a picture of the cop, with the caption “You’re Next #Accountability,” along with an hourglass emoji to signify that time for this young police officer is running out.
What kind of a country do we live in when people want to send a police officer to prison (or have something worse happen to him) for stopping a murder?
My relief in relation to Joe Biden was short-lived, even without LeBron James’ tweet. President Biden got back on television to tell the public that the United States has a “long history of systemic racism,” which he characterized as “a stain on the nation’s soul.” President Biden said that the Derek Chauvin case “ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see the systemic racism” inherent in our justice system. Vice President Harris added, “A measure of justice is not the same as equal justice.” She closed by saying, “We still must reform the system.”
The system the Democrats are going to reform is our criminal justice system. I thought I would take a minute to describe what our new system will look like, should Democrats get their way.
The problems Democrats have with our criminal justice system are numerous. One is that police officers have the same presumption of innocence, the same evidentiary rules, and the same burdens of proof (at different stages of the criminal justice process), as do other people accused of crimes. Democrats will point out that George Floyd did not get a presumption of innocence and was not found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt when he was killed. From there, Democrats will say that Derek Chauvin deserves no more due process than he afforded George Floyd.
Another problem Democrats have with our justice system is that African American men make up only about 6% of our population. Yet, they represent about 33% of the people in our prison system. Not only that, but African American men get, on average, longer prison sentences than do other people. This is, to the Democrat, concrete proof that our system is biased against African American men.
Someone who is not a Democrat might point out that men commit almost ALL violent crime, so really the number we are looking at is 13% of the population – not 6%. Someone who is not a Democrat might also point out that African American men commit 52% of all violent crimes (including 52% of all murders – where the presence of a body precludes over-policing being the cause of the disparity). Someone who is not a Democrat might point out that our prison population matches our general population by crime rate about as close as any statistical analysis will match anything anyone ever cares to look at. As far as longer prison sentences, that too goes away once recidivism levels are taken into account. With 13% of the population committing 52% of the violent crimes – they are more apt, statistically speaking, to have prior convictions.
If someone says that crime and recidivism levels account for the differences, a Democrat might come back by saying that maybe those numbers are true but that there are socio-economic reasons behind those numbers that are not the fault of the people living in high crime areas. In other words, the driving force behind higher crime rates in predominantly African American communities is white supremacy, making the higher rates in the prison population the fault of white people as well.
And there, to the Democrat, we get to the crux of the problem. Our system of justice is based on individual justice rather than social justice. Many Democrats – the leadership of the party that is – want a system of justice where either individual justice is thrown out or where at least collective guilt and innocence is considered as a part of the case.
Incidentally – I agree with Democrats that the problems in our inner cities were not created by the people living there. I’ve shown in the past how Lyndon B. Johnson’s ‘War on Poverty’ was modeled after parts of Apartheid and how though the anger and resentment in our inner-city communities are justified, it is also misdirected.
In the case of Derek Chauvin, it was not just Derek Chauvin who failed George Floyd, and nor was it just George Floyd who was victimized. Policing, in general, was on trial. According to several prominent Democrats, the entire country was on trial.
The message in the media is that every African American, and particularly black men, are the victims of our police (and our country), and Derek Chauvin was being tried for the collective guilt of the entire nation. Chauvin, all police, and the country as a whole were found guilty on all counts. So we are guilty, and now we have to atone.
Had the verdict been otherwise, that would have been further proof that our system of justice does not work in any way, shape, or form and that the whole system needs to be reinvented from the ground up.
Either way, the trial proved to the Democratic leadership that our country, particularly our justice system, is irredeemably broken, and they now want to burn it all down.
The unique thing about our country is that it is the only country on the face of the Earth that was created, from its start, under the notion that the purpose of government is to protect the freedom and liberty of the people. Every other nation on Earth was set up, in most cases with a monarch at the top (in some cases with a ruling oligarchy), in order to unify the people such that their efforts can best be employed in the service of the monarch (or oligarchy).
Other countries, particularly in Europe, have since largely followed our lead, but as wealth has grown in free nations (including our own), so too has a temptation to use the ‘national income’ for collective projects. What socialist countries all over the world find are that it is far cheaper to build monuments attesting to the ‘greatness of the nation’ than it is to feed and house the people in the nation. As a consequence, the movement away from freedom tends to be also a movement away from food.
Freedom requires actual, individual justice. Social justice is, by definition, a move away from freedom – a movement back to a state where the people are collectively organized by the state to use for the benefit of the ruling elite.
And what does ‘justice’ look like to the ruling elite? Let’s look at that…
Imagine you have been accused of murder. You did not do it, and the evidence in the case seems to make that clear. You are arrested, you plead not guilty, and then you start your trial.
There is no jury – only a panel of judges. There is no prosecutor or defense council – just the judges, along with whatever witnesses and expert testimony the judges think is important. The judges note that you are a white male, and one of the judges mentions that our prison system is below quota on white men.
The witnesses are all brought in, one at a time, and are questioned by the judges. It seems pretty clear that you did not commit the crime. After the witnesses have all been called, the judges go to chambers to confer. Finally, your verdict is read: the outcome of this particular case is unclear, with insufficient evidence to show that you committed the specific crime under question. You are, however, found to bear some collective guilt, and the court cannot overlook your privilege in this case. You get five years of hard time.
Imagine another case where a member of an at-risk group CLEARLY is guilty. The verdict? The outcome of the specific case appears to reflect guilt, but the court cannot overlook the level of oppression faced by people like the accused in our society, and thus the fact that the accused, to the degree he is guilty, was likely acting out against that oppression must be considered. He gets five years on a suspended sentence that will go away entirely if he does not commit another crime within that time period.
I, of course, made those hypothetical cases up, and I made up the rules the courts used in those hypothetical cases as well. I have no idea that this is the system of ‘justice’ our Democratic leadership would propose, as thus far, they have not proposed anything specific. All the left has done so far is to attack the ‘systemic racism inherent’ in the system we do have. And, frankly, I think I’m being generous – there are plenty of Democrats who want only ‘collective guilt’ considered.
The way our existing system of justice is supposed to work, if I take two cases that are identical in every possible way, except for the person accused – the same jury, the same judge, the same prosecutor, the same defense attorney, the same evidence, the same witnesses, etc. – I should get identical outcomes from both trials, regardless of the race, gender, or whatever, of the person accused. That, by the way, is imperfect. In a perfect system, having a different jury, a different judge, a different prosecutor – none of that should matter. In real life, we can’t have every single case tried with all of the same people, and in real life, different jurors may be swayed differently by different pieces of evidence. This is why we have 12 jurors instead of just one, but we could have 100 jurors on every case, and there would still be variance in outcomes based on having different juries. Some prosecutors and defense attorneys are better than others. Different judges may make different decisions regarding the admissibility of evidence, or on specific objections, or whatever. We have standards and rules for judges to follow on such things, but there is some level of interpretative subjectivity involved such that no two judges are exactly the same. And even if we HAD all of the same participants in every case, the mood of people, relative skill levels – all of these things can vary based on how much sleep people got, what they had for breakfast, what their commute was like, and a gazillion other things.
Simply put, a perfect system of justice is not possible, and our founders recognized that when they crafted our system of justice. Perfection was not the goal. The goal was to create the best system possible, recognizing that perfection, while ideal, could not possibly be met.
Comparing a system to perfection is a common tactic people on the left use. They will point to a system, whether it is our justice system, capitalism, or whatever, and point out flaws in it to show how terrible a system it is. The fact that these systems are better than any other systems never seems to come up.
The reality is that, as Milton Friedman used to say, ‘perfection is not for this world.’
Will a rich person be treated better than a poor person in our justice system? To the degree that a rich person can afford a better attorney than can a poor person (court-appointed attorneys generally being young and inexperienced), the wealth of the accused can absolutely have an impact on the quality of the defense. District attorneys generally try to compensate for this by having the best and most experienced prosecutors taking the most difficult cases (which are generally the ones with the best defense attorneys), but there is nonetheless a discrepancy between the relative quality levels of the defense provided based on the accused’s ability to pay for legal representation. OJ Simpson, in his murder trial, had better representation than did Derek Chauvin. It is what it is.
Is a black defendant treated differently than a white defendant? I would like to think that in our country today, the color of the defendant makes no difference. I do think that, by and large, this is the case, but with millions of court cases taking place every year, I would be a fool if I believed that race is not ever a factor in any of them. Race should not be a factor, but I’m sure there are cases where it is, and we should absolutely try to address that whenever and wherever it occurs.
But what the Democratic leadership is talking about is not working to address racial bias in specific cases. They are talking about structural changes to take into account ‘social justice,’ which by definition must come at the expense of actual justice.
Do you want to live in a country where who you are is more important in determining guilt or innocence than is what you do? There are people on the left who claim that this is already what we have (it is not what we have – but they claim it is). Their ‘solution’ is to make it, so that who you are is all that matters.
Take George Floyd and Derek Chauvin. The left asks whether or not George Floyd got treated with the same level of justice as did Derek Chauvin?
How about another example. Did Police Officer Nick O’Rear, who was shot and killed while conducting a traffic stop on February 5th, 2020, get justice? The person who shot him was charged with capital murder and will face trial, with all of the protections our legal system can offer. If we are going to stop giving due process to police officers who kill, are we going to do the same thing for people who kill police officers?
Nobody on the left would support denying someone accused of killing a cop due process, and yet many on the left want to deny police officers due process.
We can chart the number of police killed in the line of duty every year along with the number of unarmed people who are killed by the police every year to see what happens more often. Both numbers vary by year, but on average, about 50 unarmed people are killed by the police every year, whereas about 100 police are killed in the line of duty every year. The police are twice as apt to be killed as they are to kill an unarmed person. Don’t the police deserve the same due process protections those who kill them receive?
One would hope that the police would deserve the same due process protections as those who kill them receive, and yet if we listen to the rhetoric of the left, it sounds like they want the police to have a presumption of guilt.
I don’t think the Democrats are really interested in fixing or improving our justice system. If they were, they would be looking at actual improvements rather than claiming that the whole thing is a sham from the ground up. What the Democrats want is something other than improving the justice system. Perhaps they want to use the concept of ‘justice’ to penalize and imprison their political opponents? That would seem to be compatible with some of the other initiatives they are undertaking, such as HR1, which is designed to change from a two-party system to a one-party system.
What I do know is that the ‘solutions’ being suggested, and in some cases already being implemented by the Biden administration, must be rejected in their entirety.
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