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The Fragility of the U.S. Justice System

Jeff Campbell

Posted on July 29, 2018 08:01

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Watching Netflix’s updated The Staircase is a reminder of how fleeting justice can be in our justice system.

One of the core pillars supporting our country is our justice system, and tantamount to the success of our justice system is justice, not convictions. Justice can only be achieved when all parties that run the justice system play by the rules and follow the path the facts of any given case takes them. Our justice system, however, has become a battleground where truth often struggles to see the light of day and law enforcement and prosecutors blaze their own paths towards convictions to further careers and notoriety.

Regardless of the guilt or innocence of the subjects in the recent updating of Netflix’s The Staircase and Making a Murderer, among other crime documentaries, they show that law enforcement and prosecutors were dishonest, which makes a mockery of the “justice” system. In addition, judges tend to thoughtlessly throw bricks on the prosecution’s side of the scales, rubber stamping whatever prosecutors bring forth. What is more disturbing is that the shows represent just the tip of the iceberg, and in one of the two cases, the defendant had money and quality representation. The countless defendants that do not have the resources are completely trampled under the heavy boots of “justice.”

To gauge things on my local level, I have spent time following cases and speaking with attorneys and watching first hand police lying under oath to advance their cases and judges barely listening. Obtaining convictions in large quantities under any circumstance rules the day. In one case, the defense attorney brought facts proving his client’s innocence to the prosecutor’s attention and they just shrugged it off, going for a conviction anyway. They were trying to send someone to jail for trespassing on a public fishing area to use the porta-potty. Fortunately, there was a substitute judge from a different jurisdiction that day who challenged the prosecutor and tossed the case.

How widespread are these honesty problems in our justice system? A former police commissioner for San Francisco has written that police officer perjury in court is commonplace and widespread across the country. As reported in the NY Times in 2013, New York State Supreme Court Justice Gustin L. Reichbach, stated while delivering a guilty verdict on police lying and corruption, “But even this court was shocked, not only by the seeming pervasive scope of misconduct but even more distressingly by the seeming casualness by which such conduct is employed.”

No matter how widespread the problem is, any level of lying by the police, prosecutors or other members of law enforcement, erodes the bedrock of our justice system and one of the core pillars of our system of government. We need to have zero tolerance for corruption and lying from those that are given broad powers to maintain order in our society. We need to be able to trust, not fear our courts and law enforcement. Complete honesty must be restored to our justice system if we are to have “justice,” but unfortunately, I don’t see needed change on the horizon.

Jeff Campbell

Posted on July 29, 2018 08:01

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