Archive for the ‘criminal justice’ Category

Justice and Forgiveness

April 10, 2014

Last night in our Bible study at church, we were discussing the Lord’s Prayer and the emphasis on forgiveness.

And forgive us our sins,
For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.  (Luke 11:4)

We were in agreement that it is necessary for us to forgive those who have wronged us.

Then someone asked about justice.  Just the day before, a family had observed the one year anniversary of a tragic event.  A baby had been shaken by his father, causing severe damage.  The child went through months of seizures, and has lasting damage that, unless miraculously healed by God, will likely be permanent.  While the baby fought for his life, and while the mother and family dealt with the multiple treatments, seizures, and ongoing effects, the father moved out, and was free to go about his business while the justice system went through the various steps leading eventually to conviction and confinement.  The family was, and is, concerned about justice.  A wrong had been done, a penalty should be paid.

How do we reconcile forgiveness and justice?  This blog does not claim to present the final solution to that problem, but rather, a starting point for thought, and perhaps discussion.

I would suggest that forgiveness is an act of an individual, while justice is a function of society.  Forgiveness is an attitude that allows us to let go of the anger, resentment and hatred that poisons our hearts.  Justice is a necessary component of society that punishes wrongdoers, thus preventing us from taking matters into our own hands.

It would be wrong to think that God only supports forgiveness.  The Mosaic Law set forth laws, and punishments for those that broke the law.  These penalties were considered to be just.  It would be wrong to think that the God of the New Testament, with the emphasis on forgiveness; and the God of the Old Testament, with an emphasis on judgement, are incompatible, or different Gods.  God is both just and forgiving.

There are consequences to wrongdoing.  These consequences can be both temporal and eternal.  God is both merciful and just.  We can be forgiven the eternal consequences of our sins, and still face the temporal consequences of our actions.

For the believer who has been wronged, it is important for us to forgive the wrongdoers and leave the consequences for their actions in the hand of God.

Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. (Romans 12:19)

Clearly there is a tension between justice and forgiveness.  As individuals we must forgive those who have wronged us.  As a society we must pursue justice for those who have been wronged.  The Holy Spirit can help us have the ability to forgive in our hearts,  and the wisdom to pursue justice in our land.

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More to the Story

March 29, 2012

The shooting of an unarmed Florida teenager by an armed neighborhood watch man has created quite an uproar.

What surprised me the most was the information that was left out in most accounts that I have read.

According to a report in the Orlando Sentinel, dated March 26th, when the police arrived, George Zimmerman was bleeding from the nose, had a fat lip, and was bleeding from lacerations on the back of his head.  There is a witness that saw Zimmerman on the ground with Trayvon Martin on top of him.  Zimmerman was the one calling for help, according to the witness.

This information significantly changes the story.  There is still much to debate about the role that neighborhood watches play in communities, the right to bear arms, the “Stand Your Ground” laws and so on.  It is a tragedy that the young man is dead, but we really should consider all sides of the story. Sadly, Trayvon isn’t alive to tell his side, but we should still listen to what George has to say.

 

Politics as Usual

August 19, 2010

The first trial of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has ended with him having been found guilty of only one of the many counts against him.

He was found guilty of lying to federal investigators.

I am afraid that I have become somewhat jaded when it comes to American politics.  As a young teenager I watched as the Watergate scandal unfolded.  I am not surprised that politicians would lie.  I have wondered if any of them would consistently  tell the truth.

He is accused of trying to “sell” the Senate seat, formerly held by President Obama.   He certainly sounds like he is trying to make a deal for it.  After all, it was “golden”.

Don’t politicians make deals all the time?  If we arrested every politician that traded their vote on an issue for something else that they wanted in return, would we have anyone in congress?

The cost of the first trial was over twenty million dollars.  Plans are underway for a retrial.  It sure seems like that money could be put to better use.

Ok, so he lied, and,  he talked privately about trying to make a deal for the senate seat.  I am sad to say that it sounds like politics as usual to me.

Idealists

November 19, 2009

Carrie Feldman and Scott DeMuth are in jail this morning.  Their crime is refusing to testify before a grand jury that is investigating  an Animal Liberation Front action at the University of Iowa in 2004 that caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to a research facility.

They are both involved in animal activism.  They are both from the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.  They were both promised a form of immunity that provides an exemption from claiming the 5th amendment.  They both may know something about the events of 2004.

They both refused to speak, as a matter of principle.

They oppose the concept of the grand jury investigation. Grand juries do not utilize a judge, or allow defense attorneys to accompany them.  The prosecuting attorney asks questions and they are required to answer.

They do not believe that, under these conditions,  they should be forced to divulge what they have heard, seen, or know.

They are guilty of idealism. 

Since when did that become criminal? 

 Perhaps it is time that we take a closer look at the justice of our grand jury system.

Police Shootings

August 5, 2009

In our area there have been two men shot by police in the past week.  This is unusual for our normally quiet, Iowa community.  In both situations the officer was clearly threatened or attacked. 

The first incident involved a man who was wanted for questioning in an assault.  When the officer tried to take the individual into custody, the man refused to comply with the officer’s orders.  The officer used his taser, but it was ineffective.  That is not supposed to happen.  The officer was attacked, bitten, had his head smashed into the concrete and was on the ground being choked.  Only then did he pull his firearm and shoot the assailant.

The second incident involved a response to a domestic disturbance.  When the officer arrived at the scene, the man came to the door with a meat cleaver in his hand.  He refused to obey commands to drop the cleaver, and came at the officer in a threatening manner.

The officer shot him.

That is the basic information as reported in our local newspaper.  My concern is; what has happened to basic respect for authority?  Do people really think that they can attack police officers?  Do they think that they can refuse compliance with simple orders?    I sincerely hope that this is just a freak occurrence and not a growing trend.

Governor in Jail!

December 10, 2008

I heard yesterday that the Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich has been arrested.  This morning I heard on the radio that he is actually in jail as of this morning.  He is accused of trying to sell Obama’s senate position. 

Amazing!

Actually, former governor Ryan, also of Illinois, is currently in prison as well.  He has been arrested, tried, convicted, and is serving his sentence.

How sad….

I have read somewhere that in Confucianist thinking the most important element for a government to succeed is the trust of the people.

Trust… the government???     Are you kidding????

If Confucius was right, (and if my memory is correct) we might be in trouble.  I remember (vaguely) the sixties.  I was in the 8th grade when Watergate was exposed.  I have learned not to have too much trust in the government.

Trust will have to be earned.

I do not believe that all politicians are corrupt.  I hope, and pray that our leaders are moral, and will make good choices and decisions.  I pray regularly for our leaders.  I want to believe the best of people;  even of politicians.

Can any good, moral, politician come out of Illinois??

I certainly hope so.

Justice for All

June 14, 2008

Justice for all.  Isn’t that a nice concept?  Our society has a pretty good justice system, certainly better than many in history or around the world, but it does seem to favor the wealthy.  How could it be better?

What if all lawyers involved in criminal cases were government employees?  This could be funded by setting up a sliding scale fee charged to the people who need to use defense lawyers.  The more you can afford, the more you pay, with a reasonable cap of course.  Lawyers would be assigned by the state with no regard to the individuals ability to pay.

The prosecuting attourney would seek to discover and prosecute guilty individuals.

The defense attourney would seek to protect individuals from being unfairly treated in the investigation and prosecution of crimes.  If they are guilty of a crime then the role would be to see that they are not unfairly punished, to bring to light all mitigating circumstances.  

The goal of both the prosecuting attorney and the defense attorney would be the same…justice.  When a crime is committed , then the guilty party is reasonably punished.

As it is now the lawyers duty is to their client.  They use the rules of the system to the best advantage of their client.  The best lawyers receive high compensation for their work.  The more money you have at your disposal the better your chances are at getting away with crime. 

That is not just. 

If the lawyers first duty was to pursue justice for all, our criminal justice system would look a little different than it does today.