Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The False Justice of the American Legal System

     I love my country. I really do. Despite the monumental idiocies the culture has spawned and the hideous atrocities we have committed as a nation, I still have patriotism in my heart. We started out pretty well, I think. The Founding Fathers were brainy folks. But enough of that. The point of this post is not to gush about Independence Day and the Revolutionary War; rather, it is to say that, although I believe our nation is on the whole a great one, it does have some serious problems. And the problem I want to address is this: I hate our legal system.

     Hate it. There’s no justice. Everybody pretends that once a criminal is convicted in court he receives his just desserts. He’ll spend a few months or years in prison if he stole something, or if he murdered someone, maybe he’ll get life.
 And if he was particularly brutal, perhaps he’d even get two life sentences without even the possibility of parole! Is there anyone else here who feels that this is a completely hideous lack of justice? This sort of thing makes me so angry. Who designed this corrupt system, anyway? And what exactly had he been drinking? I don’t understand it. What earthly reason is there for refraining from hanging a murderer? There isn’t one; nothing rational, anyway. Some will perhaps babble some nonsense about “second chances” and “he just made some bad choices.” Well, you’re darn right he made some bad choices! And what exactly is meant by “second chances”? What exactly do you want to give a murderer a second chance to do? Kill someone else? I really do not care that some people leave prison as milder and more law-abiding individuals. The life of a murderer and whether or not it is a pleasant one is of no consequence to me. What does matter is justice. And there is no justice to be found in committing a murderer to prison for a mere twelve years or even his whole life.

     In Biblical law, there is no prison. If you killed someone, you would lose your own life. No exceptions, no second chances. Cast the evil from among you, says the Lord. Why do we, as Americans, not cast the evil from among us? Why do we prefer to cuddle it close to our bosoms and feed it chocolates? It’s not right. 

     One of the worst things about this system is the effects on the victims or their families. Think of the mother whose son was shot to death by gangsters simply because they wanted a laugh. Or what about the man whose daughter was slain by her psychotic boyfriend? When you think of the nightmare these people are living, what it must be like to wake up every morning and realize that someone you loved is gone forever because a murderer took his life… Do you think they are satisfied to know that the man who pulled the trigger is sitting in a cushy jail cell somewhere? I hate the fact that we offer no justice to these grieving friends and family members. Somebody slaughtered their loved ones, and all we can say is that he will spend the rest of his life in jail? That’s not enough. I want to watch him die. I want to see the look on his face as he hears his sentence read, as he realizes that he will end his life kicking and gasping for air. I want the families of murder victims to know that the devil who killed their child is a dead man himself.

     It’s not wrong to desire these things. God Himself designed a system in which restitution was to be made by thieves and killers would lose their own lives.

     The death penalty was reinstated in the state of Colorado in 1975. Guess how many people have since been executed? There have been 6,387 murder cases since that time in our state. How many of those people do you think actually had justice administered to them? One man. One. Man. has been executed by the state in thirty-five years. What about the other 6,386? They quietly serve their time in a comfortable place which is staffed by people who offer them warm food and adequate exercise daily. And meanwhile the grieving families do their best to convince themselves that this is justice.

    It is not, and it will never be anything more than a paltry excuse for it. I don’t understand how things got this way in the first place. But there it is, I suppose. I hate it. If I had one wish in this world, it would be to fix the legal system so that all criminals got what they deserved.

     But there is actually some comfort in this black darkness of injustice. And that is this: Vengeance belongs to the Lord. It doesn’t matter if all these murderers elude the death penalty for eighty years and end their lives as happy and contented old men. They think they have beaten the system, but they are so dead wrong. They may not answer for their crimes in this life, but there will quite literally be hell to pay in the next. So instead of being enraged at the shocking injustices perpetrated by the crooked legal system, I need to take the two other options. The first is to have faith that God will do as He says. If He says there will be justice, there will be. I just have to wait longer than I like to see it. And the second option is to try to change the system myself. I have absolutely no clue how I am going to do this, but I suppose something will come up.

     And that’s all I have to say about that…..— Forrest Gump

5 comments:

  1. Justice? Tell me honestly, do you believe a public execution satisfies the demands of justice? Personally, I don't think so. Not even being raked over hot coals until death would satisfy justice. Not even crucifixion. You'll notice that at any capital punishment, the victim's family always says, "it's not enough. Nothing can bring back _____." And honestly, they're right. Even if you do hang the murderer, you're still exchanging the life of a murderer for the life of an innocent person. There can be no justice.

    I suggest you read the sermon on the mount again. I don't recall the exact words, but it goes something like this: The Old Testament commanded that "thou shalt not murder," but even being angry with your brother counts as murder. In that sense, we are all murderers, and equally deserving of this "justice" you desire. I know I certainly have been angry with people before, and thus, according to the NT, qualify as a murderer.

    Are there problems with our justice system? Certainly! I wouldn't downplay them at all. However, I do not believe the death penalty is the answer.

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  2. Anonymous, I'd like to reply to at least part of your comment.

    The point of justice and punishment is not to change the past. If that were the case, why would a mother put her son in time out (or administer *ahem* another form of punishment, which I'm sure you don't agree with.. =) after he intentionally broke a vase? It won't fix the vase. Why is bullying punished in schools? It won't undo the damage already done. Why do we have to pay fines when we get ticketed for speeding through a neighborhood? All the money in the world won't change the fact that we sped.
    No, punishment does not to change the past. It brightens the future. It shows what will not be tolerated, and what the price is for the crime.
    Cold, brutal murders do not pay highly enough to prevent others from committing similar crimes.

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  3. I would also like to respond to this post and the interesting debate that is going on.
    First, God gave us our government. It services one purpose and one purpose only. “Establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessing of liberty to ourselves and our posterity” U.S. Constitution.
    Second, we are all humans and all fallen. How do we know what justice is? We can only know what is just if we know God’s character. God’s character defines justice. Can we expect that kind of justice from a human system? Here is what we must do- “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Rom13:1
    Thirdly, why do we punish at all? There obviously must be a very good use of it. I have seen it work miracles in my own life. I believe it corrects wrong in ways NOTHING else will do. The fact that there is a God means that their must be justice. It does not always happen in our time, but it will come. Everything will be measured against God’s character.
    Lastly, here is my own opinion on the matter of punishment. It all begins with a man named William Wilberforce who had a crazy idea that changed the world. I’m crazy and I agree with him. He believed that the way to solve big crimes like murder and homicide was to never slack on the little petty thefts. I’m not quite sure why it works, but it does. In 1787, Wilberforce began his “reformation of manners” in Great Briton. He strove to make “goodness fashionable”- and he succeeded….triumphantly. The British Crown began enforcing laws against petty theft and indeed made goodness fashionable.
    I believe we don’t give enough consideration to dealing relentlessly with the petty thefts to decrease the larger crimes. Looking at the full impacts of Wilberforce’s “reformation of manners” is truly extraordinary and far too much for one post. I would encourage all of you to read Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxas.
    H.C. Olson

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  4. Anonymous, I would also like to reply to your affirmation of “There can be no justice.” Were it true that the point of justice is to right (or erase) the past, then you’re completely right; there can be no justice. But that’s NOT what it means. Justice, as Amy said, is not about fixing the past, but partly about brightening the future. And it is also, although this concept may be distasteful, about the wrongdoer himself. I don’t care what you did; if you killed a man or stole a purse. If a person does something wrong, he must face the consequences. Of course, there is mercy. One doesn’t rain down all the fires of Hades upon a child who took a cookie. But where do we draw the line? Are we just going to let people get away with murder? Or are we going to do what is right and let them know that their actions will not be tolerated?
    Also, I would like to point out that Jesus was not referring to legal matters when He said that anger is equal to murder. If you’ll notice, He also said in the same sermon that you ought to cut off your hand if it causes you to sin. He was not encouraging self-mutilation: He was trying to convict us of the seriousness of sin. The anger-murder thing was the same. And one more thing! J Jesus specifically said that he did not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it. I believe that what He meant by this was that the ceremonial laws were changed because now He was the intercessor and sacrifice, but many of the basic principles of justice laid out in the Old Testament still stand. Forgiveness and mercy definitely have their place, and it is beautiful. But they do not replace justice.
    And I totally did not even think of the petty crimes enforcement thing! Thanks for bringing that up, H.C. Olson. J

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