Mankind has placed its hope for evenhanded justice in 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 and media outlet searching for the latest facts, suppositions and rumors. Even cases involving brutal, violent crimes are reduced to a 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 instances of judges “legislating from the bench.” Other cases might involve dramatically divergent sentences for the same crime. Justice is sought, but double standards are found.
Often 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, there may be a case in which a serial killer is caught red-handed. There is no doubt of his guilt, and he may even receive life in prison. Do these sentences actually completely deter others from committing similar crimes? If so, why do they happen so often?
In these examples, much attention is given to the legal process and the people involved. Do the media, judges and decades of appeals establish fair, evenhanded justice? They do not—they only leave more unanswered questions.
Then there is the Middle East. Some 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 juvenile involvement in elaborate and complex crimes.
Murder has also reached astronomical levels. With very little respite, the number of killings worldwide increases each year.
The growth of violent murders is the most shocking. School shootings, serial snipers, and other rampages are signs that criminals are not deterred from committing murder and other violent acts.
The solution thus far has been to hire additional police officers, who must enforce new and increasingly complicated laws. In most cases, this has been difficult given the struggling economy.
For instance, New York City has 61,000 officers. Considering that the average yearly salary is about $50,000, law enforcement alone costs New York City approximately $3 billion! In essence, they have thrown money at the problem, instead of addressing its cause.
Consider the following: according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s most current statistics, a violent crime occurs every 25.3 seconds, with one murder every 35.6 minutes, a forcible rape every 6.2 minutes, one robbery every 1.4 minutes, and an aggravated assault every 40.5 seconds. And this is just in the United States!
This brief 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.
After a perpetrator is caught, he eventually faces charges in a court of law. This judicial process should enact justice—but justice is sometimes the furthest 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 was always intended to be fairly applied, so that all parties could receive justice.
This is not often 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. 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 a prosecutor or defendant gain an 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 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. Often, the outcome is in favor of the perpetrator.
Additionally, 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 incriminating 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 these pre-trial motions, the 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.
Along with padded juries and dishonesty from witnesses and legal counsel, these motions 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 a judge 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. As has been demonstrated, though, the courtroom is far from fair, even before proceedings begin. Nevertheless, this is the duty to which he has been assigned.
This means 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 ever better at exploiting legal loopholes—do not mislead the jury. As you can imagine, this assigns a substantial amount of power to judges.
In the United States, when justices are affirmed into their roles, they swear to uphold the law, following the Constitution and previous rulings when deciding a matter. It is thought that the rulings of previous cases, combined with established laws, mean that a greater number of judges are ultimately involved in the decision-making process.
Judges, however, have increasingly begun to rule based on their ideology, not on the Constitution, evidence or existing precedents.
Judges—more so than Congress or the president—have the power to change the cultural fabric of society. And since Supreme Court justices are on the bench for life, a man or woman chosen for this position has nearly unchecked power.
This is why the selection of judges is becoming increasingly political and vicious. Republicans want one who will further their agenda; the same is true of Democrats. Recall the retirements of Supreme Court Justices David Souter and John Paul Stevens in 2009 and 2010, respectively. Their resignations opened the way for new appointees—and provoked a war of words each time!
Both sides feel that they know the solution to society’s problems. They assume that if “their man” is put in a Supreme Court seat, many of the ills plaguing America will be corrected. But judges are not supposed to further any agenda. Their job is to interpret the law, based on existing rulings.
Judges are supposed to be the benign overseers of the legal system. Yet fighting, bickering, legislating and, in some cases, scandals have caused many people 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?
Several years ago, Dutch law (as applied in Aruba) received extensive media attention during the case of a missing girl. Because of the nature of the case, the press spent much time comparing the Dutch legal system to that of the United States.
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. As mentioned, 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.
This also means, however, 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, most 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 a Dutch Ambassador, “The legal system…differs from the U.S. system but it is as effective.”
Yet the U.S. system is not effective!
There are many examples of injustice in the legal system today. Each showcases unique faults, flaws and repercussions. The previous examples show that the justice system is simply incapable 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 politicians have been the center of investigations—some leading to very serious charges.
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, but arbitrary moral standards are often applied to verdicts instead. 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 the accuser and accused!
Most would agree that dramatic reforms need to be instituted in legal systems around the world—that something must be done to correct the problems.
Again, 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 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 can know that God exists. There is ample proof—if it wanted to see it. (Read Does God Exist? for solid proof on this topic.)
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, covenantbreakers” (Rom. 1:22, 24, 28-31).
These passages may make the situation seem hopeless. But 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. But he was designed to be ruled, and to learn how to rule.
Men’s governments understand that judges must learn to rule and judge. The same is true in God’s government.
The Bible explains that Jesus Christ will soon return to Earth. When this happens, He is going to set up a new government, administered by leaders whom He has trained.
Read the book Tomorrow’s Wonderful World – An Inside View! to find out how true justice will be established worldwide.
After completing this training program, the leaders in this coming government 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.