The Aptly Named American Criminal Justice System

The following is shared with permission from the Self Defense Fund (National Association for Legal Gun Defense). Self Defense Fund is a proud sponsor of Open Carry Texas.

The Self Defense Fund (National Association for Legal Gun Defense) is of the opinion that the American system of criminal justice is rightly named.  It is criminal and run by criminals.  Is that hyperbole? Maybe! Maybe not!

Let’s take a look at some of the facts and you decide.  America is a prison nation. A study shows that 1 in 3 Americans will be arrested by the age of 23, many of them arrested on “crimes” including truancy and misbehaving in school.

The war on drugs has ensnared millions of Americans for the non-crime of possessing parts of a plant which is now legal in some states.

America’s rate of incarceration exceeds that of many other countries. In America, people can be and have been arrested for walking on the wrong side of the road; shocking but true.  Recent court case history tells of a man arrested for reading his wife’s emails, another for uprooting a tree on his own property, and another for draining their own stock pond.  The list goes on but is too long to include.

According to Harvey Silverglate, author of “Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent,” you can commit a federal crime in America and not even know it. People are targeted and a crime is found to fit. He writes: “It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that the average busy professional in this country wakes up in the morning, goes to work, comes home, takes care of personal and family obligations and then goes to sleep, unaware that he or she likely committed several Federal crimes that day.”

 You know that the rule of law has essentially vanished when the Attorney General himself feels compelled to state: “America’s legal system, we must face the reality that, as it stands, our system is in too many respects broken.” That is precisely what Eric Holder stated while seemingly taking no responsibility for the fact that he is the top lawyer in the nation.

In any event, the broken criminal justice system really took center stage when the federal prosecutor Carmen Ortiz drove child prodigy & visionary internet activist Aaron Swartz to his death by piling on overzealous charges in an attempt to advance her career.  Instead she drove a gentle genius to an untimely death. Kudos to you prosecutor Ortiz.

In light of AG Holder’s comment, Bloomberg columnist Clive Crook wrote an excellent article outlining some of the main attributes of our increasingly broken legal system. Here are some key excerpts:

“As a prosecutor, a judge, an attorney in private practice, and now, as our nation’s attorney general, I’ve seen the criminal justice system firsthand, from nearly every angle. While I have the utmost faith in — and dedication to — America’s legal system, we must face the reality that, as it stands, our system is in too many respects broken.” Grook wrote.

In a widely reported speech, AG Eric Holder delivered that assessment of U.S. criminal justice. Many commended his frankness, but if you ask me he’s confused. A broken system of justice shouldn’t command the utmost faith; it should arouse the utmost skepticism. And his appraisal was actually too generous. America’s criminal-justice system is not “in too many respects broken”: It’s a national disgrace, from top to bottom.

According to a forthcoming report from the American Civil Liberties Union, 2,074 federal inmates are serving sentences of life imprisonment without possibility of parole for nonviolent crimes. Think about that.

The U.S. – a country that loves freedom, so I’m told – has virtually abolished trial by jury. According to one recent count, guilty pleas resolve 97 percent of federal cases that are prosecuted to a conclusion. Instead of bothersome trials, the U.S. has a plea-bargain system in which prosecutors not only bring the charge but also, in effect, determine guilt and pass sentence.

Frequently you read of judges deploring the sentence they have to pass as they deliver it. They do it anyway. It’s the law.

These elements, disturbing enough in themselves, come together in an especially pernicious way. The combination of plea bargains and mandatory minimum sentences – not to mention the U.S. practice of stacking charge upon charge, with sentences to run consecutively – gives prosecutors awesome powers of intimidation. One dreads to think how many innocent people are in U.S. prisons, and will be felons for life, because they were offered the choice of a relatively light sentence if they pleaded guilty to a lesser charge or the risk of decades of incarceration if they preferred to take their chances with a maxed-out indictment at trial.

In this system everything depends on the decency and restraint of prosecutors. Most, no doubt, are decent and restrained. If that weren’t so, the demand for radical change would already be overwhelming. But some lust after high political office and wish to make their mark; some are vain; some, as in any profession, are just bad people.

The justice system is designed to have checks and balances, so that the system’s integrity doesn’t depend on the corruptibility of individuals. How strange that the criminal justice system is now run by criminals.

Please somebody explain why plea bargains and mandatory minimum sentences don’t violate the Constitution’s requirements of “due process” and “equal protection of the laws,” or why life in prison without parole for a nonviolent offense isn’t an instance of the “cruel and unusual punishment” forbidden by the Eighth Amendment. You’ll need an expert to tell you why the Supreme Court was right to uphold a sentence of 50 years to life (under California’s three-strike rule) for the crime of stealing nine video cassettes.

AG Holder says he’ll send instructions to prosecutors so that they don’t bring charges that trigger grossly inappropriate mandatory minimum sentences. Well, that’s great but how come his prosecutors needed to be told that in the first place? Why has Congress passed those laws to begin with? And how come it leaves them on the books as the grievous miscarriages of justice multiply?

AG Holder’s speech cast much of the argument as an appeal to save money: Prison is expensive; greater use of noncustodial sentences and parole would be more cost-effective; and so on.  The need for economy is one reason that some states have experimented with sentencing reform. Far be it from me to resist any argument that pushes in the right direction. But the issues at stake in all this are rather more fundamental than what it costs to keep somebody locked up.

Despite the vaunted separation of powers, Congress, the courts and the executive have cooperated in violently skewing the balance of power between ordinary citizens and the government’s endlessly proliferating law-enforcement agencies. The Constitution’s framers would, I think, be stunned. The U.S. criminal-justice system is beyond illiberal. It’s beyond what any nation of laws should tolerate.

With the fundamental need for laws there is also the necessity for sound and committed enforcement, both on a personal and systematic level.

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case from one society to the next. Certainly there are a number of people out there who break the law – sometimes in the weirdest ways  –  and it’s reassuring that the authorities are there to properly deal with these unusual situations.

But sometimes the police and the law themselves are the very problem. Even when citizens are doing the right thing, they can still be falsely accused of a crime, fined unjustly and even arrested due to the misguided or downright bizarre actions of law enforcers. Alarmingly, this means that any one of us can be arrested at any time for pretty much anything and everything.

So how can you find justice in a criminal, Criminal Justice System?  Many of our SDF members like the idea of a lawyer who is a “junkyard dog,” and for understandable reasons. Disputes and lawsuits can be contentious, threatening, and emotionally draining situations.

A person may have been wrongly accused of harming someone else and the financial stakes can be very high. When faced with this situation, some folks think their best bet is to have the lawyer who will wage a down and dirty, no-holds barred war that will destroy their opponent’s will to fight and make the “other guy” regret the day he ever met their client.

I’m reminded of the movie The Untouchables, where the veteran cop (Sean Connery) explains to a youthful FBI agent Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner.) Do you know how you “get Capone?”  “When he pulls a knife, you pull a gun. If he sends one of your guys to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago Way!”   By recent news it seems that Chicago police shoot first and ask questions later.

Hiring a Junkyard Dog lawyer who practices the “Chicago Way” of litigating sometimes leads to victory but let’s be clear on the terms “Junkyard Dog” and the “Chicago Way” style of litigation which are more correctly translated as “Expensive.”

You see it all the time on the news when the affluenza people who have the ability to pay “Smart” attorneys most of the time they are acquitted or no billed even though they may be guilty.  Smart lawyers do not work for free and you will need a whole army to come to your defense in today’s justice system.

As a member of the Self Defense fund you have a bank roll of one million dollars, per occurrence, for you and all your family that are paid members.

Note: Use referral code “opencarry” when you sign up at http://www.selfdefensefund.com to let them know that we sent you.

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One thought on “The Aptly Named American Criminal Justice System

  1. Jon

    Interesting comments. I’ve heard stories of people open carrying and being stopped by the police with no rationale. I’m glad there’s a company out there that can protect us from unwarranted stops!

    Reply

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