In conversing with a friend on Twitter yesterday, I was reminded that I had been intending to do a little rant on the state of our in-justice system today. The whole situation is so complex that a person could write a series of books on the subject and still not cover it all. I hope to hit a few highlights in this small post.
There are many factors that have gone into the destruction of any “fair” justice system in the United States but I do think that out of control prosecutors with immunization from any law breaking are at the heart of it all. Robert H. Jackson was a United States Supreme Court Justice and was the chief prosecutor at Nuremberg, Germany in 1946. In 1940 as Attorney General Jackson gave a speech to the United States Attorneys:
“The prosecutor has more control over life, liberty, and reputation than any other person in America. His discretion is tremendous. He can have citizens investigated and, if he is that kind of person, he can have this done to the tune of public statements and veiled or unveiled intimations. Or the prosecutor may choose a more subtle course and simply have a citizen’s friends interviewed. The prosecutor can order arrests, present cases to the grand jury in secret session, and on the basis of his one-sided presentation of the facts, can cause the citizen to be indicted and held for trial. He may dismiss the case before trial, in which case the defense never has a chance to be heard. Or he may go on with a public trial. If he obtains a conviction, the prosecutor can still make recommendations as to sentence, as to whether the prisoner should get probation or a suspended sentence, and after he is put away, as to whether he is a fit subject for parole. While the prosecutor at his best is one of the most beneficent forces in our society, when he acts from malice or other base motives, he is one of the worst.”
As you can see, as far back as 1940 the professionals inside the legal system could see that enormous power wielded by America’s prosecutors was a dangerous situation. Backed by the enormous power of the state, these prosecutors have unimaginable power to destroy innocent lives.
Since the advent of the “war on crime” and the “war on drugs” dating from the Nixon era, the only thing that the pubic seems to pay attention to is the prosecutor’s conviction rate. Justice and truth seem to have been shoved aside in rating the performance of these “secular gods”. The prosecutor is practically immune from any punishment when he breaks the law and tales of prosecutorial misconduct are legion. Since power unchecked will inevitably lead to abuse, it is not a mystery why our “Innocence Projects” keep uncovering innocent men and women railroaded by the system.
The Wall Street Journal outlined the case of a man who was innocent and almost pleaded guilty because everyone in the system told him to do so. He decided on a trial based on he did not want to swear before God to a lie that he was guilty. A jury found him not guilty. The article went on to say:
The triumph of plea bargaining in the federal system, which has gathered pace in recent years, is nearly complete. Guilty pleas last year resolved 97% of all federal cases that the Justice Department prosecuted to a conclusion. That is up from 84% in 1990. During that period, the number of federal defendants nearly doubled amid a crackdown on crimes ranging from drug trafficking to fraud, while the number going to trial fell by nearly two-thirds. (WSJ)
In one of his essays, Lew Rockwell recounted the case of a college professor who was arrested for an “online crime”. His lawyer said that the system would bury him if he did not plead guilty and accept an easy sentence. The judge and prosecutor double crossed the man when he did and he remains in jail to this day. He is a broken man, innocent yet seen as a criminal. No prospects for the rest of his life.
I could go on and on about innocent men and women being railroaded by our out of control criminal system. There are people who do little else but report on that issue. The simple fact is that a “plea bargain” was resisted by judges for centuries but now we see that 97% of the criminal cases are settled by plea bargains. This tells us that the system is badly broken.
The prosecutors have all the power and even judges can not exercise discretion when they see a travesty since lawmakers passed laws taking away much of the judicial discretion that existed in the past all in the name of “getting tough on crime”. And so, there is little way out for the accused. Like in the USSR, to be accused is to be guilty. Well, maybe we are not there yet but we certainly are getting closer by the day.
How did this all happen? It was both political parties preaching safety, security, and calling for locking up the “bad guys”. The idea of a “fair trial” was seen as almost un-American. By 2001 the police state had won and the 9-11 security madness just cemented the win. It does not matter who you are anymore — you are a sitting duck if the police state decides to come after you. There is almost no chance you could escape the feds once they take notice of you and decided to cage you. And there you languish for perhaps decades until you are totally institutionalized and have no chance at a normal, useful life. You are just an ex-con. The fact the system ran over you just to improve its conviction rate and help make the political career of yet another prosecutor matters little to family, ex-friends, prospective employers, and so on.
The US has the largest prison population in the world both by raw numbers and by percentage count. Why? Do you really think that American people are much more criminal than all the other peoples of the world? Of course not. The reason is that we have a police state even if the people want to pretend that it is just not so. The news this week is that the US government has access to the phone records and web activity of every single American. Are we to believe that this information will not be used against anyone the government takes a strong interest in?
No matter how much data and evidence comes pouring in that our government is out of control, the people seem to think it is all okay. Wake up sheep!