Wanted Alive: Justice
In 2015 America was celebrating the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta; but does it any longer apply in the U.S.? Article 39 of Magna Carta provides that, "No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land." And Article 40 that,"To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice." Below we show that neither of these articles is being properly complied with.
The U.S., because hysteria rules, now incarcerates five times more people (one in 32 adults) than the world average; most without trial (including youths jailed for years without trial or conviction). However, crime rates are no higher than in Europe, where incarceration rates are a fifth to a tenth of what they are in the U.S. Even more unacceptably, while the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child prohibits imprisoning children without the possibility of parole, the U.S. has more than two thousand in jail (less than twenty in the rest of the world - in some U.S. states pass such sentences on children as young as ten); some for life. Furthermore, currently, about half a million people are locked up in U.S. jails awaiting the determination of their fate and, in the process, costing U.S. taxpayers about $17 billion annually. The average wait in jail is 68 days; but it can be much longer. At the infamous Riker's Island prison in New York, some 1,500 people have been incarcerated for a year or more pending their verdict. This figure does not include the 400 who have been detained there for at least two years, and the six prisoners who have been waiting for more than five years. Some of these prisoners are probably guilty of violent crimes; but three out of four are low-level offenders, accused of non-violent offences such as drug possession, or even traffic violations, and who simply cannot stump up the necessary bail money. The disruption this causes to lives can have serious consequences relating to work, family life, rented accommodation, etc., causing many who are eventually released to rely on welfare payments to survive and, may, therefore, actually encourage criminality.
A high proportion of prisoners in the U.S. are innocent and, because of a manifest failure to put truth before coercion they are victims of the serious decline in the quest for justice. In the interest of ensuring the public desire to feel safe is satiated, high standards of fairness and equal justice for all have been seriously eroded, with conflicts of interest becoming an integral feature of the system. However, that engineered safeness is an illusion, because, for every innocent person in jail, a real criminal remains at large to repeat his/her crime. To jail an innocent person, especially when it is for decades, constitutes a societal crime against the individual of wrongful imprisonment. And, to be sure, crime can never defeat crime.
The erosion of legal principles in the US – such as habeas corpus and the prohibition against self-incrimination – is undermining the presumption of innocence. Furthermore, inconsistent policing, rampant plea bargaining, overcrowded courtrooms and ever more draconian sentencing have added to the huge prison population, a disproportionate element of which is black. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy notes that 95 percent of all convictions in the US are the result of plea bargains and not trials: “Ninety-seven percent of federal convictions and ninety-four percent of state convictions are the result of guilty pleas.” He, therefore, admits that the criminal justice system is in reality a system of pleas. Since trials are now the exception to the rule, it is not surprising their quality has suffered.
In the seriously compromised US legal system, an admission of guilt under duress is now regularly accepted as sufficient proof of guilt. It was in 1978 that the Supreme Court ruled that threatening a defendant with life imprisonment for a minor crime, in order to induce him to forfeit a jury trial, did not violate his Sixth Amendment right to trial. To impress upon defendants that accepting a plea bargain is the preferred course of action, for daring to exercise their constitutional right to trial, they generally are bludgeoned with three times the sentence they would have earned had they accepted a plea bargain. This and incarcerating the innocent for daring to protest their innocence has become part of the dynamic of flea-market haggling which the US criminal justice system has been reduced to.
Here are some eye-opening books that expose this shocking situation:
The Tyranny of Good Intentions by Paul Craig Roberts and Lawrence M. Stratton:
Crusading legislators and unfair prosecutors are remaking American law into a weapon wielded by the government. The erosion of the legal principles –such as habeas corpus and the prohibition against self-incrimination–is destroying the presumption of innocence. Civil liberties are slowly slipping away in the name of the War on Drugs, the War on Crime, and the War on Terror.
Three Felonies A Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent by Michael A. Fox:
The Department of Justice has led a steady march to expand their reach into the lives of ordinary Americans. The resultis a panoply of laws giving them the right to prosecute just about anyone for anything at will. There are numerous laws and Department of Justice interpretations and applications that give them authority rivaling the Soviet Union in its heyday. This boils down to a scandalous use of the federal instruments of powers residing in the executive branch at the Department of Justice that go unchecked.
The Collapse of American Criminal Justice by Wlliam J. Stunz:
The rule of law has vanished in America's criminal justice system. Prosecutors now decide whom to punish and how severely. Almost no one accused of a crime will ever face a jury. Inconsistent policing, rampant plea bargaining, overcrowded courtrooms, and ever more draconian sentencing have produced a gigantic prison population, with black citizens the primary defendants and victims of crime. Local democratic control has been abandoned and the system has become more centralized, with state legislators and federal judges given increasing power. The liberal Warren Supreme Court's emphasis on procedures, not equity, joined hands with conservative insistence on severe punishment to create a system that is both harsh and ineffective.
Law Street: America's Dysfunctional and Sometimes Corrupt Legal System by Wim J. M. Touw:
The American legal system is far from perfect. High standards of fairness and equal justice for all are lacking, and conflicts of interest are an integral part of the system’s practitioners. American lawyers have lost their moral and ethical moorings. They have manipulated the British common law system for their own financial benefit or to advance their careers. Thus, the US criminal law system puts innocent people in jail and the tort system, the contingency fee, and the “loser pays” laws have turned the once noble profession of lawyering into a profitable, unregulated business corrupting the legal process. The result is America’s dysfunctional and often corrupt legal system.