What is justice? 🙏

Fair play and justice have always been of high significance for me whether it be sports, politics, business, education, law or in other walks of life. In times when folks with money and power push the envelope on what is considered legal/acceptable, get away with it and are admired for that and repeat offenders are treated like folk heroes 👎 expecting fair play and justice not realistic always I realize. Basic honesty and decency should not be too much to expect though. I like watching shows like “Dateline”, “20/20”, “48 Hours” to see how the investigative and judicial process works. The most heartening shows are those that feature investigators’ dogged pursuit of truth by collecting evidence and pursuing leads assiduously, lawyers arguing the case based on evidence bringing closure to affected families and reinforcing belief that the wheel of justice does move even if at times very slowly 👏. The most heartbreaking shows are those where closure for affected families means just holding on to memories of victims or to objects associated with the victim/s like a pendant, sweater or a glove due to lack of physical body. 😢

It’s fascinating to look at the process and the players involved in the pursuit of justice. In criminal justice system the guilt of the accused is to be proved beyond any reasonable doubt. The reason is to minimize the possibility of accused person getting punished if he/she is actually innocent. I have wondered how some of the people involved in the process approach their work. Let’s consider a few

1) Cops/Investigators: They should have an open during the course of investigation while collecting evidence and following all promising leads. Does their training and experience help them keep their biases and emotions aside and check out all leads, especially if they have a suspect with the motive and means to commit the crime? Does the desire to take quick action against perpetrator/s come in the way of doing a thorough investigation?

2) Prosecution team: In trying to build case against the accused would they prefer to ignore any and all evidence that may not fit their case? Would they simply go ahead with their case and have the defense team poke holes in their argument/case?

3) Defense team: Is the only objective for defense to create reasonable doubt about the accused’ involvement? Would the defense team ask the accused to reveal everything relevant to the case to defense even if some of the facts may be detrimental to the accused’ cause OR would defense team clearly mention to the accused not to reveal any facts that may harm them (The defense team could then possibly claim no knowledge if unpleasant facts are unearthed by prosecution?). If there are multiple eyewitnesses to a crime and there is no doubt about guilt of the accused does defense lawyer’s training force them to still fight for a less stiff sentence by arguing temporary insanity for the client even if it’s not really true?

4) Jury: For serious crimes verdict is required to be unanimous. The jurors are likely to be from different backgrounds with different temperaments. Would aggressive juror/s bully and try to force other jurors (with different point of view) to agree with them? (If that does happen that would be like social media groups where a few attention-seeking and overly aggressive folks push their own agenda while ignoring or isolating those who disagree even if it’s for valid reason/s 😡)

5) Judge: Potential jurors are vetted for their biases before they are selected for jury duty to ensure their bias would not cloud their judgment. Is there a similar process in place before a case is assigned to a judge? For example, assume a judge is an avid biker and the case involves a hit-and-run involving the death of a biker. Would the judge subconsciously sustain or overrule objections based on their own likes and sympathies?

There are also instances in criminal cases where the defendant may make “Alford plea” which amounts to a guilty plea by defendant in criminal court but does not admit to the criminal act and asserts innocence. Generally this happens when defendant thinks prosecution has made their case strongly and as a result jury is likely to return a guilty verdict. Alfrod plea appears like a compromise and a neither here nor there kind of deal (A civil case equivalent would be defendant settling the case without admission of guilt and have NDAs signed to prevent any further discussion of the case).

Is the meaning of justice different based on the role of a person in a trial? For a prosecution lawyer is “Guilty” verdict = justice? Likewise does “Not Guilty” verdict mean justice for defense lawyer? Should justice mean victim’s family and friends and the accused’ family and friends knowing the full truth?

The question that keeps haunting me is “What is justice?”🙏

Author: Rajaram 'Raj' Gopalan

Hi All, Welcome to my home in cyberspace! You can call me Raj. Feel free to explore, discuss, comment and most importantly have a good time!

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