How Just Is Our Justice System?

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Innocent until proven guilty is a precept under our legal framework.  The process of proving someone’s guilt is conducted inside a courtroom.  But like any human systems, error happens.  The question is how much error can we tolerate?

Would you ride an airplane with less than 97% of safety rating?  How about an open heart surgery of less than 50% chance of success? Or what about a justice system with 11.6% wrongful convictions?

According to the Innocence Project, over the past two decades, more than 300 people in the US have been exonerated of crimes. These wrongfully convicted folks served an average of 14 years in prison before they were exonerated.

Take the case of Yutico Briley, a 19 year old, who was wrongly convicted of robbery and sentenced to 60 years in prison without the possibility of parole. Briley had no prior violent convictions record. And with the assistance of Emily Brazelon, a journalist, Briley was finally exonerated in March 2021 after serving 8 years in prison.

How many more innocent people have to be locked up before our justice system is reformed?

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7 Responses to How Just Is Our Justice System?

  1. earthskyair says:

    Very good question, Terry.

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  2. fgsjr2015 says:

    When I hear how relieved people are when some guy is charged with a reviled crime — ‘Did they catch him? They did? Well, that’s a relief!’ — I mentally hear the phrase, ‘We’ll give ’im a fair trial, then we’ll hang ’im.’ If I’d point out he may be the wrong guy and is being railroaded, I could receive the erroneous refrain, ‘Well if he’s truly innocent, he has nothing to worry about.’

    It’s why I strongly feel the news-media should refrain from publishing the identity of people charged with a crime — especially one of a repugnant nature, for which they are jailed pending trial (as is typically done) — until at least after they’ve been convicted. Considering the serious flaws, even corruption, in the law-enforcement and justice system — great injustices committed, both hidden and exposed — no one should have their name permanently tarnished and life potentially ruined because the news-media insists upon immediately running a breaking story.

    It all epitomizes an unjust presumption of guilt.

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    • terryshen says:

      Yes Frank, the collective we have a tendency to jump to conclusion or the “presumption of guilt” as you mentioned it. However I think the problem is far greater than the news-media. Because the said organizations are, like any business, providing what their consumers want. It our Capitalistic way. Far more dangerous is the social media where vicious attacks and misinformation are destroying lives but faced with impunity. People hide behind the free speech banner. And any justice systems are run by people who inherently are biased. So we must be able to face our mistakes and be courageous in remediating them. So true justice may be served. Thanks for your comments.

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  3. fgsjr2015 says:

    Thank you for your reply, terryshen.

    I strongly feel the mainstream news-media should behave considerably more ethically/morally than they do. For example, Postmedia (the conglomerate that owns all of Canada’s major print publications, except for the Toronto Star) is on record as being formally allied with not only the planet’s second most polluting forms of “energy” (i.e. fossil fuel), but also the most polluting/dirtiest of crude oils — bitumen. [Source: “Mair on Media’s ‘Unholiest of Alliances’ With Energy Industry,” Rafe Mair, Nov.14 2017, TheTyee.ca https://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2017/11/14/mair-media-unholiest-alliances
    For me, most pressing is: should the promotion of massive fossil fuel extraction, even Canada’s own, be a partisan position for any newspaper giant to take, especially considering its immense role in global warming thus climate change? And, at least in this case, whatever happened to the honorable journalistic role of ‘afflicting the comfortable’ (which went along with ‘comforting the afflicted’), especially one of such environmental monstrosity?

    Furthermore, Postmedia recently refused to run a paid ad by an environmental organization that was critical of the mass extraction of bitumen, which itself leaves a huge carbon footprint and environmental mess the oil companies refuse to clean up after themselves.

    Regarding social media, I, like so many other people, have grown weary of general social media’s physical (and often identity) disconnect, through which the ugliest of comments can be and too often are made without consequence for the aggressor. However, what I find indispensable about social media in general is that it has enabled far greater information freedom than that allowed by what had been a rigidly gatekept news and information virtual monopoly held by the pre-2000 electronic and print mainstream news-media. Besides the Black Lives Matter and George Floyd protests, I seriously doubt that Greta Thunberg’s pre-pandemic formidable climate change movement, for example, would’ve been able to regularly form on such a congruently colossal scale if not in large part for the widely accessible posting and messaging systems of Facebook.

    While I don’t know his opinion of social media, in an interview with the online National Observer (posted Feb.12, 2019) Noam Chomsky noted that while the mainstream news-media does publish stories about man-made global warming, “It’s as if … there’s a kind of a tunnel vision — the science reporters are occasionally saying ‘look, this is a catastrophe,’ but then the regular [non-environmental pro-fossil fuel] coverage simply disregards it.”

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  4. fgsjr2015 says:

    I hope it doesn’t completely overtake traditional news-media; rather, the two should compliment each other. Social media has an important role to play in an otherwise rigidly gatekept news and information virtual monopoly that had been held by the pre-2000 mainstream news-media.

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