Mankind has put its hope for evenhanded justice into various courts and legal systems. The institutions in each country have different methods, laws and penalties. Are any of these superior to the rest?
In America, the flash of cameras surrounding high-profile cases is commonplace. Defendants range from movie stars to serial killers, with every news organization, media outlet and newspaper chain searching for the latest facts, suppositions and rumors. Even cases involving brutal, violent crimes are reduced to a daily soap opera. Throughout such ordeals, one often hears the media speaking of “seeking justice.” But is justice ever found?
Then there are the cases that may not garner instant media attention, such as certain perceived social injustices or judges “legislating from the bench.” Other cases might involve dramatically divergent sentences for the same crime. Again, justice is sought, but double standards are found.
Oftentimes, the rich are able to afford good counsel—and get an acquittal—while the poor do not receive the same quality of representation. Is this just?
What about clear open-and-shut cases involving those who commit horrible crimes? For example, a case may be one in which a serial killer is caught red-handed. There is no doubt of his guilt, and he may even receive the death penalty. Do these sentences actually deter others from committing similar crimes? If so, why do such crimes happen so often?
In these examples, much attention is given to the legal process, the people involved and the commotion that has become the norm in Western courts. Does the media circus, activist judges and decades of appeals establish fair, evenhanded justice? They do not—they only leave more unanswered questions.
Recently, the American media has focused on a missing person’s case in Aruba. They have been quick to point out perceived problems in the island nation’s Dutch legal system, and explain how it differs from the U.S. Do certain countries have more advanced—more effective—judicial systems?
And then there is the Middle East. Many of these countries institute punishments such as severing hands for theft or stoning women for adultery. Are these systems more effective?
People, cities and countries across the world seek to establish justice, but do any actually apply it? Are any of these systems more fair—more just?
Some opine that the American system is the most advanced, yet corruption abounds at every level. Looking into the cause of the problems in the court systems around the world, one is left without solutions.
Yet, there is a solution that the vast majority overlooks.
Even the briefest look at the crime wave sweeping the world gives insight into the effects of modern laws and justice.
For instance, youth crime is spiraling out of control. The daily news often reports about children’s involvement in elaborate and complex crimes. Notice: “An uncontrollable teenage girl wrecked an entire street of 30 houses as she led a gang of young thugs on a systematic orgy of vandalism.
“[The] sixteen-year-old…who is said to run her mob like a mafia boss, caused more than £600,000 [nearly one million U.S. dollars] damage over a few weeks…
“The destruction of Dixon Road was the culmination of a three-year reign of terror by [the teen]…who has been responsible for arson, assault, damage to property, threatening behaviour, throwing missiles at police officers, harassing an RSPCA inspector and throwing stones at buildings and firefighters.
“Neighbours said her single mother had given up trying to control her.
“She refused to attend school, reveled in her notoriety as a ‘hard case’ and boasted: ‘I’ve done all kinds of things, aimed fireworks at the police, smashed up police cars and stolen things’…‘People were absolutely petrified. She ruled [the neighborhood] like a mafia boss, handing out punishment to all those who crossed her. Fires were started and when police were called she threw bricks at them. It has been an absolute nightmare’…‘She and her gang have wrecked the lives of many pensioners who have been simply too scared to step foot outside their homes’…
“Last night neighbours said [the girl], her mother and three or four other children had left the area in the last few days and were thought to be in Leeds. Everyone prayed they would not be back” (“The girl thug aged 16 who destroyed an entire street,” Daily Mail, July 6, 2002).
Even though this is just one case, in one city, in one country, this evidences a growing problem of youth violence around the world.
Murder has also reached astronomical levels. With very little respite, the number of murders worldwide increases each year. The growth of violent and serial murders is the most shocking. School shootings, “going postal” and other violent rampages are signs that criminals are not deterred from committing murder and other violent crimes.
The attempted solution has been to hire additional police officers, who must enforce new and increasingly complicated laws. For instance, New York City has 72,000 officers. Considering that the average yearly salary is $50,000, law enforcement alone costs New York City taxpayers $3.6 billion! In essence, they have thrown money at the problem, instead of addressing its cause.
Consider the following: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, during an average morning, one person dies in an alcohol-related accident, 59 aggravated assaults occur, approximately 90 violent crimes transpire and one murder is committed. This is just the United States—and only one morning!
This succinct overview should demonstrate that something is wrong—and that the laws, penalties and court systems are not able to curb the tsunami of crime crushing the world. (To learn much more about the crime problem exploding around the world, read our extensive prophetic conditions report The Worldwide Crimewave.)
After a perpetrator is caught, he eventually faces charges in a court of law. This process should enact justice—but justice is sometimes the farthest thing from the minds of those involved. The original purpose of a court case was to present all evidence pertinent to the crime, including physical evidence, witness statements, criminal history, etc., so that a fair verdict could be rendered by either judge or jury. The objective was not to wrongly convict an innocent party, or to acquit one who is guilty. The law is intended to be fairly applied, so that all parties receive justice.
However, this is not the picture today. Exorbitant amounts of money are spent on the “science” of a courtroom. A wide range of studies have been done on the “art” of jury selection, and, a recent movie was made about this process. While sensationalized by Hollywood, it contained interesting elements demonstrating the complexity of jury selection. Millions of dollars can be spent on padding the jury before a trial begins. Certain personality types, races, educational backgrounds and many other factors help either prosecutor or defendant gain the advantage.
And then there are the consultants for the defense. Even in cases in which guilt is obvious, the defendant is coached on how to dress, sit and address the jury, and what facial expression to show—all done to sway the jury to acquit. Legal battles have been fought over whether jurors will rule fairly if the defendant wears an orange jumper or enters the courtroom in shackles. Oftentimes, the outcome is in favor of the perpetrator.
(You might recall a recent case in which a court bailiff was shot because the defendant, who was known to be violent, was not shackled during proceedings.)
Consider how evidence is handled. Depending on its nature, how it is collected and other factors, certain evidence might not be allowed into the courtroom. Seemingly minuscule technicalities can cause a guilty party to be acquitted because certain evidence is never brought before a jury.
The same can be said of past criminal records. A defendant’s lawyer will often fervently argue to have past crimes hidden, under the guise of preventing jury bias. In fact, past crimes lay the groundwork for demonstrating a propensity to become a repeat offender.
In these pre-trial motions, this jockeying back and forth is nearly a court case in itself. These motions ensure that evidence and records—the facts—are hidden from an unsuspecting jury.
These motions, along with padded juries and dishonest witnesses and legal counsel, produce circus sideshows regularly depicted on television (often to the tune of huge ratings, as news outlets feed the drama-thirsty Western culture).
Ultimately, only one person is charged to maintain order: the judge!
The purpose of judges is to keep the procedures running smoothly. Acting as a court “referee,” he must balance between pursuing the truth and recognizing tricks used by legal counsel. He attempts to keep things fair. However, as we have seen, the courtroom is far from fair, even before the proceedings begin. Nevertheless, this is the duty to which he has been assigned.
This means that a judge has a very difficult task: He must ensure that unfair evidence is not brought forward, and that lawyers—many of whom are becoming better at exploiting legal loopholes—do not mislead the jury. As you can imagine, this assigns a substantial amount of power to judges.
When they are affirmed into their role, they swear to uphold the law, following the Constitution and previous rulings when deciding a matter. It is thought that the body of existing precedents, measured against established laws, would mean that a greater number of judges decide matters. Judges, however, have increasingly begun to rule based on their ideology, not on the Constitution, evidence and existing precedents.
The power to “legislate from the bench,” as it is often called, completely undermines the American system of government. Judges—more so than Congress or the President—have the power to change the cultural fabric of society.
This is why the selection of judges is becoming increasingly political and vicious. Democrats want one who will further their agenda; the same is true of Republicans. Witness the recent retirement of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Her resignation opened the way for a new appointee—and the battles have begun!
Each side feels that they know the solution to society’s problems. They feel that if “their man” is put in the Supreme Court seat, many of the ills plaguing America could be corrected. However, judges are not supposed to further any agenda. Their job is to interpret the law, based on existing rulings. Since Supreme Court justices are on the bench for life, the man or woman chosen has nearly unchecked power.
Judges are supposed to be the benign overseers of the legal system. However, fighting, bickering, legislating and, in some cases, scandals have caused many to view the whole system with suspicion, distrust and doubt.
The system is broken! One cannot undo years of unjust and unfair rulings. One cannot fix a system in which every aspect, from the judges at the top, to the lawyers at its base, is viewed with mistrust. It does not deter criminals—and rarely delivers justice to victims.
Is this a localized problem? Are courts in other countries more effective than the American system? Much media attention has recently been brought to Dutch law, as applied to Aruba, comparing it to American law. The root of these two systems is utterly different. Dutch law is called “civil” law, which is based on Roman laws. The American legal system (and that of most Western nations) is based on common law—the customs, traditions and history of that nation.
Some major differences between these systems emerge. For example, under Dutch law, jury trials are not used. Everything is brought before a trained judge. There are obvious advantages to this. In the U.S. legal system, much legal “wrangling” goes into selecting and swaying juries. On the other hand, a trained judge should be able to see through the tactics of smooth lawyers.
However, this also means that a corrupt judge would have the only say in a particular case. To protect against this, the prosecution or defense can ask for a retrial. The matter is then sent to a three-judge panel, and the entire process is repeated. Of course, any defendant who is found guilty would request this.
In such a system, justice could never be swift, because either party can—and likely will—ask for a repeat. Unlike the American system, the retrial basically starts from scratch, as if the original court case did not happen. Under American law, the prosecutor cannot retry a person who has been acquitted. This is not the case under Dutch law.
Another interesting difference between the two systems is that, under Dutch law, one cannot negotiate a plea bargain. Those familiar with American law will recognize that defendants sometimes plead guilty in exchange for a lesser sentence. For instance, a murder charge could be reduced to manslaughter—even though murder was actually committed. To the families involved, the injustice is obvious.
When a defendant is charged with murder under the Dutch system, the prosecutor must prove the charge. The drawback is that the entire process takes much more time. Also, evidence, investigations and court proceedings are more guarded. This slower, more secretive approach differs greatly from the U.S. system. As explained by the Dutch Ambassador, “The legal system of Aruba…differs from the U.S. system but it is as effective.”
However, the U.S. system is not effective!
There are many examples of injustice in the legal system today. Each has its unique faults, flaws and repercussions. These examples show that the justice system is simply not capable of rendering a fair ruling—that media attention, corrupt lawyers and judges, and a system clogged with frivolous cases mean that delays, retrials and injustice are rampant.
You may recall some of the extremely high-profile cases that have been featured in the mass media. Famous athletes, media moguls, corporate executives and even politicians have been the center of investigations—some leading to very serious charges.
A Florida Supreme Court struck down a four-year-old law that made it illegal for civilians to wear police or sheriff’s badges, stating that it violates their First Amendment rights. Obviously, the law was enacted to prevent people from being fooled into believing that someone is a police officer. However, that court no longer sees this as a concern.
Another amazing case was Ralph Lauren’s victory against a magazine, which he forced to change its name. As the official magazine of the U.S. Polo Association, the publishers were surprised that they could not keep the name: Polo!
When a 21-year-old Connecticut man crashed into a telephone pole during a high-speed chase, he sued the town to pay his medical bills, claiming that the police’s reactions were “reckless, unnecessary, and unwarranted.”
An appeals court acquitted a 16-year-old who shot his teacher. The court ruled that it was not the boy’s fault—it was the liability of the school board, gun distributor and the gun owner (from whom the boy stole the gun).
In September 1988, two Ohio-based carpet layers were severely burned after a 3.5 gallon container of carpet glue burst into flames when a nearby hot water heater (only inches away) turned on. They argued that words such as “flammable” and “keep away from heat” were not sufficient in warning them of the danger. They filed suit and a jury agreed, awarding the men $8 million!
Everyone should be treated equally in court. And this should include sentencing. At times, a guilty party is made “an example,” especially in high-profile trials. The law should be applied in a fair manner. However, moral standards are often applied to verdicts. Some criminals are given two, three or even five life sentences. One reason is to placate society, making it feel comfortable with the fiction that the individual will be imprisoned for hundreds of years! This is ridiculous. One life sentence should literally mean for life.
Human feelings, media pressure and cunning lawyers mean that similar crimes rarely receive the same penalty—withholding justice from both accuser and the accused!
It may seem as though dramatic changes need to be instituted into legal systems around the world—that something must be done to correct the problems we have addressed. However, mankind has had 6,000 years to institute its laws, courts and systems—and has failed.
Many problems inherent in the court system today are reasons that true Christians refrain from jury duty. Fair rulings are impossible. And even if the right party is convicted, sentencing is often extremely unbalanced. The same crime can result in “a slap on the wrist” or decades in prison. It is not fair—and justice is not achieved.
Even after a conviction, there may be a long series of appeals. Notice what King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, wrote about slow justice: “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Ecc. 8:11). The long, drawn-out legal process actually causes crime to be committed. No matter how harsh the punishments, if they take years to enact, criminals will not be deterred!
This explains why severe deterrents—such as the death penalty—do not seem to work. Time passes, and people forget. This results in criminals dismissing the punishment. And, in the case of the death penalty, most criminals know they can spend their entire lives in jail without worry of actually being executed.
Why can humanity not see the problems and ills that we have described? Why does it seem unable to grasp their cause? Notice: “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man…to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23). Could it really be that simple? Under inspiration of the God who created the universe, the prophet Jeremiah reveals that man is simply unable “to direct his steps”—and therefore unable to govern, direct and rule nations.
But one may ask, “How did this come to be?”
Two quotes from the New Testament fully explain the cause and the effect. First, the cause: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God has showed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened” (Rom. 1:18-21).
Mankind has been shown that God exists. There is ample proof—if he wanted to see it. But admitting that there is a God would mean obeying Him. And human nature fights this at every turn.
The result? Man has declared that he does not need his Creator—that he can “figure things out” for himself. Notice God’s view on this: “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools…Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts…And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness…covetousness, maliciousness, full of envy, murder…deceit…inventors of evil things…without understanding, covenant breakers” (Rom. 1:22, 24, 28-31).
These passages may make the situation seem hopeless; nevertheless, there is a solution. We have seen that, through a series of scriptures and a look at injustice today, mankind is not capable of self-rule. However, he was designed to be ruled, and to learn how to rule.
The Bible explains that Jesus Christ will soon return to this earth. When this happens, He is going to set up a new government, administered by true Christians who are being trained today. Men’s governments understand that judges must learn to rule and judge. The same is true in God’s government.
Read our book Tomorrow’s Wonderful World – An Inside View! to find out how true justice will be established worldwide.
After completing this training program, Christians will fairly execute laws and judge equitably around the world. They will see into people’s hearts, and always determine the best solution! In the end, the confusion that exists today will cease, and every person will receive fair, righteous justice.