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kuhla

Just the basics of our justice system....

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Small rant time.

I follow a lot of the news regarding law enforcement violence, officer involved shootings, etc. and this one theme that I see reoccurring in the discussions over and over, without fail, is a total misunderstanding of some of the most basic parts of our justice system.

  1. Prosecutors push for the "best" charges that they think they can win with. They can't afford to lose because of double jeopardy in criminal cases.
  2. Both sides agree on who is in the jury and they have a whole pool of people to pick from. If the jury doesn't represent the local population then whose fault is that?
  3. Everyone keeps throwing around the word "murder" as if it just means "a person killed another person". We don't even have to talk about the "law definition" of the word, just look it up in the dictionary and you will find it mentions "malice" or "premeditated". Hmmmm. Those words might be important and completely change the conversation.
  4. The concept of "reasonable doubt" is a big part of our justice system and fits right in with the spirit of Blackstone's quote "It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer".

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I'm going to pick on #1 mostly because it creates a nasty situations.

 

Prosecutors are biased (no shit) but I mean, really biased. They generally don't care where the evidence comes from (or if it's even legally acquired, way to go OC DA's Office). Prosecutors only care about winning, and looking "tough on crime" which means winning with the harshest penalty possible. We as the public generally hear about high profile cases that make it to trial, which skews our views. It does not help that many high level prosecutors often try to transition into politics or judicial positions.

 

This becomes an issue because very aggressive prosecutors push for very harsh charges which are often difficult to get convictions on, especially when dealing with high profile cases. The reality is that most cases do not make it to trial and are instead dealt with by plea. The reason why we even get plea deals is because the prosecutors will often threaten very harsh charges (that they most likely cannot prove) unless the accused takes a plea deal. Most people will choose spending 18 months in jail over going to trail with a possible sentence of 10-15 years. I think prosecutors need to be more reasonable, and sentencing should begin to skew more heavily to financial penalties, community service or suspended sentences. We as a country focus very heavily on punitive measures rather than rehabilitation.

 

Sadly we do have issues with Juries, and their seeming unwillingness to punish members of law enforcement.

"Police officers are very unusual kinds of defendants because ... they are seen as acting not in their own interests but acting to protect the public at large, the very people sitting on their jury," Rosenthal said.

 

I think the current justice system is screwed up in other ways like: elected judges and worse yet those elected judges collecting campaign contributions from attorneys that might end up in their courts.

I also think that a general lack of understanding regarding the judicial system by both members of the public and law enforcement can create some nasty situations. Above all, some people don't understand we don't govern by mob rule, and that members of a jury should be as impartial as possible.

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.......

 

Sure. All reasonable criticisms of how our current justice system is designed but your response shows some understanding of our current system. Because of that understanding I'm guessing you are not surprised when a prosecutor takes the safe route with lesser charges or a jury comes down with a not guilty after the prosecutor goes for the "tough on crime" maximum-penalty strategy.

 

Plea deals alone are practically a whole topic on their own.

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There's also the fact that juries are generally selected based on their LACK of knowledge about the legal system. Ask a lawyer if they've ever served on a jury, the answer is no. Ask a paralegal or even a college student who's taken a few legal classes, the answer is the same.

Both sides want juries to base their decisions on emotion (and sometimes facts) not on any semblance of legal understanding.

Remember the jury of your peers is made up of average people: “Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.”

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Speaking of a broken justice system....

source - https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/dec/22/robber-freed-90-years-early-by-mistake-says-he-reformed-while-free

A robber sent back to prison after being mistakenly released eight years into his 98-year sentence asked a judge on Wednesday to set him free again, arguing he had started a family, got a steady job and reformed himself.

Rene Lima-Marin, 38, from Colorado was convicted in 2000 on multiple counts of robbery, kidnapping and burglary after he and another man robbed two suburban Denver video stores at gunpoint. A judge issued him back-to-back sentences for a total of 98 years.

But a court clerk mistakenly wrote in Lima-Marin’s file that the sentences were to run at the same time. Corrections officials depend on that file to determine how much time an inmate should serve.

Lima-Marin was released on parole in 2008. He held a steady job as a glazer, got married and had a son before authorities realised the mistake, in January 2014.
....

 


I know there already is one but there really should be a much bigger discussion in this country about prisons, prison terms, the role of prison, etc. Everyone knows that in America prison is viewed as punishment and nothing more but that is such an inefficient design for everyone. You take a member of society, who is already likely not contributing much, and put them in prison where they are guaranteed to not contribute anything. Here is an example of someone who, after getting out, held a steady job, got married, had a child, probably paid his taxes, his car registration, his son probably attended a local school or day care.... so it sounds like he turned his life around and is now contributing.... and now despite having the best possible outcome, we are taking him back out of society permanently.

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This might be slightly off topic as it's not directly related to officer involved shootings but rather the lack of action from officers. 

tl;dr - multiple cases (one, two, three)have ruled that law enforcement officers do not have a "duty of care" to protect citizens from harm. 
But what about children that are in school?  Well currently the courts think that children in school are no different, even the victims of the Stoneman Douglas attack. 
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/18/us/parkland-shooting-lawsuit-ruling-police.html

I'm shamelessly stealing/paraphrasing a comment from reddit regarding why this gets very murky: 
Children are legally required to be in school.  While in school they are under the state's care.  They are prohibited by law from carrying weapons (for self defense purposes) while in school. 

I'll throw one more major issue into the mix.  There are special relationships regarding duty of care.  A crossing guard is responsible if a child is hit by a car at the intersection they're covering - and if this is due to negligence on the crossing guard's part they can be held liable. 
The officer that was stationed on campus could be considered covered under the special relationship rule, and therefore he has a duty of care and any negligence on his part could find him liable.  In fact that's the current argument brought forward in a civil case against the officer at Stoneman Douglas. 

Overall this is an ugly set of circumstances, surrounding an already tragic situation. 

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Secret lists are always fun.  Even more fun when the secret lists get found with standard requests for information, but the current California Attorney General gets so mad about the possibility of its release he threatens the journalists with legal action if they don't immediately destroy this secret list.  Bonus points - the secret list contains all the Law Enforcement Officers that have been convicted for any crimes in the past 10 years or "have engaged in acts of moral turpetude and dishonesty."

https://www.kqed.org/news/11728957/california-keeps-a-secret-list-of-criminal-cops-but-says-you-cant-have-it

This also ties into the recent california law SB 1421 which requires law enforcement to produce records of any officer involved use of force that resulted in a firearms discharge, death, or great bodily injury.  The response from some departments when this went into effect on 1/1/19 was to break out the shredder so that they wouldn't have to provide any historical records. 

I suspect that the police unions will again fight tooth and claw to stop these Brady Lists from being made public, and the current California AG is just doing his part. 

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