Do you remember the Casey Anthony case about a woman who was acquitted of killing her toddler daughter. It became clear during the course of the trial that Anthony was probably a pathological liar whose lies impeded the investigation from the start. Most people outside the courtroom assumed a conviction was inevitable but her defense created enough doubt on the prosecution's case and created enough (irrelevant) sympathy for Anthony that they gained an acquittal.

In the aftermath, famous civil rights attorney Avery Friedman, interviewed on CNN expressed great surprise but then said something that has affected my view of the justice system forever: "Of course, a different jury might have found her guilty."

This is our justice system? It's not whether you are actually guilty or innocent but rather who is hearing the case?

This is justice?

I know the response is coming: "What's the alternative?" I don't have one, I admit, but I can no longer feel that the justice system deserves its name.

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Surely each judge and jury can only do its best to obtain an accurate result, and it's understood that that's what you're getting with any particular verdict. 

So, when you drive past a prison, do you ever think that some of the people in there who claim to be innocent actually ARE innocent, or do you just try not to think about it?

I'm sure there are innocent people in prison. I try not to think about it because there's very little I can do for them. The real issue is how they ended up in there: with the way the court works, the jury needs to be sure to within the shadow of a doubt that the accused in guilty before issuing a guilty verdict. My guess is the jurors allowed emotion to dictate the result... which should never be allowed to happen.

Philosophically, jurisprudence is girded by the western concept of free will.  In other words all of the actors on the stage are thought to be responsible for their behavior. Without elaborating, free will is an illusion. This being so, true justice is a chimera.

Further, justice is presumed blind. But justice in its administration is as tendentious as any other human institution. Each defendant is presumed innocent and equally entitled to a defense. Minorities are disproportionately charged and convicted of crimes (some of those "crimes" relating to drugs are spurious by nature and police pursue poor minorities and  avoid mainstream users) There is also a long history in USA of forced confessions again disproportionately affecting minorities. Additionally there is the issue of prosecutors being elected. It is in their interest to attain convictions as opposed to do justice. On top of that is the problem of legal assistance. The wealthier the defendant is the better the representation.

And then there is the not so small issue of legislation. Legislation reflects the interests of the elite far more than it does the majority. And so ...

Justice is a word we could certainly dispose of. Since it won't go away...John Rawls has probably framed justice best (along with commentary on politics, human rights and other philosophical questions) in his work A Theory of Justice. It was well recieved and still mandatory reading in some universities dept of philosophy, law and political science. It is a good read...especially due to his dedication to humanist principles. He was also an unashamed atheist. I'm sure most of your would dig him and his ideas.

I actually studied Rawls in graduate-level ethics course. It was a while ago (I was in my mid-20's then and I'm nearly 70 now). For Rawls, as I recall, since true Justice is impossible, the best we can hope to do is procedural justice based on a concept of fairness.

So, Rawls doesn't even try to tackle Justice in the classical sense or a proper and true result.

So, Rawls doesn't even try to tackle Justice in the classical sense or a proper and true result. are completely right. Hence why I said he frames justice (rather than qualifies it). I am yet to read anything by any one from Plato to Zizek who treats the term "justice" as well as he did. And hence why I said justice is a word we can dispose of.

But as with free will, is it a real solution to adopt a familiar terminology give it an alien and novel definition and then talk about something entirely different from what the problem means to most people?

When brought before a judge and jury accused of a crime of which I'm innocent, I need a just and true outcome, not a fair procedure.

Justice is both imposible and an ilusión.

How do we justify bothering, then?

Come on, @Unseen, you're not as cynical as all that. This is the same as any other complex problem. We can't catch all criminals so why bother catching any? We can't make a decision about all moral problems so why even bother discussing them?

We do our best and we lament the failings. I prefer that to inaction.

What about the principle, which is supposed to be fundamental to American law, that "It is better to let a guilty man go free than to put an innocent man in prison"?

What is NOT cynical about a system which regularly incarcerates innocents in the interest of incarcerating the guilty?


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