Anyone who thinks that justice is blind has got their head up their ass. And I don’t mean that figuratively. This morning I read an article about a white man in Memphis, Tennessee who received a prison sentence of 15 years for killing a black code enforcement official from the local government. I read about Shaquanda Cotton, the 14 year old black girl who received a maximum sentence of 7 years in a juvenile facility for shoving a hall monitor at her Paris, Texas high school. Good thing Ms. Cotton didn’t push two people. Texas would’ve given her the death penalty for sure for being a serial hall pusher or some stupid thing that as Texans are known to do.
The history of the justice system is filled with such inequalities. All someone has to do is say that someone of African descent was in the vicinity and law enforcement will be more than happy to apprehend every black man within 100 miles of the crime. If a black man appears in court accused of committing a crime then the burden of proof is immediately applied to the defendant. Police across America, black and white, will pull a brother over because he looks suspicious in a car that’s obviously too good for him to be driving. If two people walk out of a store at the same time and a security alarm goes off guards will apprehend that black suspect while letting the white perpetrator go free (note to dumb-ass security guards, if a white person is waiting by the door to follow a black customer out the store chances are they’re the one who triggered your goddamn alarm).
Black people accused of a crime are more apt to appear in front of a judge or jury in a prison suit and handcuffs looking ragged as all hell with six guards surrounding them in order to prejudice the jury that the person is so dangerous that law enforcement needs to take every precaution to keep this person from doing something dangerous. The subtle message to the jury is that if you want to feel safe take this person off the street and put them away.
Judges harass black defendants as well. From personal experience a white judge asked me to produce a receipt from my payment to be placed on the small claims docket. I was suing an automobile dealership for selling me a car with an inaccurate odometer when the bill of sale said the odometer reading was true and accurate (don’t buy used cars in Florida). I had to stay in the court room until she managed to get through all the cases before her. I was the only black person looking for justice and I was the only one asked to produce a receipt. Her honor withdrew her request for a receipt right after it came out her racist mouth and before I could tell her the county clerk didn’t mail me a receipt when they mailed me my documentation for a court appearance. But the message was clear, how dare I darken her court room looking for justice when she knew I was just trying to harass some poor honest automobile dealership.
Like most systems on this planet, the justice system is detrimental to the wellbeing of blacks. Forget the slogans because justice is anything but blind. Justice is a bitchy racist witch with a scud missile aimed at minorities as a broom to ride on. A black person would do better to search for a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow than search for justice in America’s court rooms.
Money is a huge influence on justice. A rich man can purchase the best justice. A poor man is saddled with a court appointed lawyer to coerce him into pleading guilty. Blind justice is a whore who is willing to go to the highest bidder.
So what can be done to fix it? The justice system operates under a code of rules and ethics that were old when the plantation owning fore fathers penned the first draft of the United States constitution. Judges still practice the time honored tradition of donning black robes when administering their official duties in a court room. Lawyers argue over who gets to sit next to the jury. Defendants are cleaned up beyond recognition of their parents let alone any witnesses. Everything is a spectacle wrapped up in presentation, dramatization, and very little actualizations. With all the 21st century technology (and 20th century technology for that matter) we have at our disposal why do we continue with such an antiquated judicial system?
A few years ago the state of Illinois put a moratorium on the death penalty. It turns out that with the introduction of DNA evidence the majority of the people waiting on death row were actually proven innocent of their crime. The Governor of Illinois knew that the chances were too great that the state had actually sentenced innocent men to their death. The Governor knew that the system had to be stopped until it can be assured that no innocent man would fall victim to its recklessness. When the Governor of Texas was asked why not implement mandatory DNA testing in their death penalty cases, George W. Bush (now President) replied with much swagger and confidence that the people of the great state of Texas are pretty sure they only send guilty people to the death chamber so it’s really not necessary.
Drama needs to be taken out the court room. When a juror sees a defendant shed tears as they sit in their chair they sympathize and will be less likely to convict. When a juror sees the plaintiff feign outrage their more sympathetic to their cause. What happened to looking at just the facts? Actors don’t belong in the court room unless they’re on trial
Lawyers regularly say things that they know they shouldn’t and all that happens is the judge upholds an objection and lamely tells the jury to disregard the statement they just heard. A juror can’t always disregard a damning and/or damaging statement.
Whenever there’s a hung jury, or for any other reason there may be the potential to have the whole shebang declared mistrial, the whole system grinds to a halt and the whole process starts all over from scratch. Many times a prosecutor will be willing to cut the losses of the people than go through the entire system again.
The presentation of a case is an expensive and time consuming process wrought with ritual, procedure, and legalese. The time it takes for the prosecution or plaintiff and the defense to present all their evidence before the court and then examine and cross examine the witnesses in front of the jury in the court room can potentially take months.
Here’s a suggestion, use video. Have both sides present all their information and all the depositions of their witnesses in front of the camera. Physical evidence can be videotaped, catalogued, and described in full detail to be presented to an advocate of the judicial branch. The advocate would edit the tape to the satisfaction of the judge, representatives of the defense, and representatives of prosecution or plaintiff. Now here’s the clever part. A defendant doesn’t need his or her race or social status brought into the picture unless it is absolutely critical to the case. This way, no juror can be prejudiced by the color of the defendant’s skin or social status. Once all the parties agree to the editing the case can be presented to the jury.
The package of details pertinent to the legal action at hand is all that a potential jury would need to review the case and come to a decision. The jurors don’t need to know anything prior to walking into the jury room. The jurors are presented with only the facts of the case administered by an advocate of the judge’s office who will sit with them and guide them through the evidence and receives any questions the jury may have. Any question unable to be handled by the advocate would have to be passed along to the judge who has the option to engage the defendant and prosecutor/plaintiff to discuss any irregularities that may occur.
Now here’s another nice part. If for any reason the jury cannot come to a verdict the data can be collected, the jury dismissed without ever knowing who the subject of their deliberation was, and all the information can be passed to another set of jurors within a matter of days without the rigmarole of a complete reenactment of the trial. If a mistrial is declared because of irregularities in the case, the offending evidence can be edited out of the package of evidence with minimal impact.
The technology to overhaul the justice system to make it more efficient, safer for all ethnicities, and less prone to error only needs the commitment of people to do it. Unfortunately there are many people who will resist changes to the judicial system. Too many lawyers and judges will have too much money and status to loose if we made the justice system a little more affordable. And how many people would be willing to administer justice in a system where there’s the potential for a black man to be treated fairly.