An eye on the ugly face of the US Justice System
The US, for the past many decades has been claiming to be the custodian of justice across the world and the Champion of Human Rights. The American government, in connivance with their media and intelligence agencies, has been exporting a fake narrative across the world that the US justice system is the best in the world and thus it gives Washington the right to ensure dispensing of justice across the world and by virtue of that, to safeguard the human rights with their version of ‘Human Rights’ in every part of the world.
However, the research indicates that the ground realities are totally contrary to what the White House or the Capitol Hills claim to be. In fact, the concrete evidence and historical facts clearly reveal that the US justice system, particularly its Criminal Justice System is actually the KEY to ensuring that Human Rights are completely rotten.
Unsettling research into the psychology of courtroom decisions has shown that in the US criminal justice system, personal backgrounds, unconscious biases about race, gender and appearance, and even the time of day play a more important role in outcomes than the actual law.
Research into the Unfair US Judicial system shows that mistakes in the criminal justice system are more common than one likes to think and that personal biases play a disturbingly strong role in the US criminal justice system. This research shows that though the US criminal justice system has been built up over centuries and really millennia but unfortunately when one looks at the scientific evidence, it appears that a lot of the underlying assumptions are not backed up by science. A lot of the US legal system is based on incorrect assumptions about human behavior.
Talking about the denial of Human Rights to its own people by living up with a rotten judicial system, one must go through the historic fact in the famous John Jerome White case. – This was a brutal rape case from 1979 in Meriwether County, Georgia. The victim was brought in. She looked at these five men and she picked out the one in the middle. John Jerome White said he didn’t rape the woman, but he was sentenced and ended up spending a couple of decades in prison.
Finally, the DNA from the rape case was tested – the US didn’t have the capability back in 1979, but a couple of decades later it did. And it was scientifically revealed that John Jerome White was not the attacker.
John Jerome White’s case, in which an innocent man was falsely convicted of rape and served 22 years in prison, speaks very clearly of discrimination against Human Rights through an unfair justice system. This also shows how the US Justice system makes terrible, terrible errors that are extremely costly. They are costly not just to the person who is wrongly convicted, but to the victim — not only have you suffered this horrible crime, but you are now responsible for putting an innocent person in prison. And, in this particular case, that actual perpetrator ended up going off and raping another woman in the intervening decades. The main factor in this whole case is that White was just a part of John’s name but he was actually of African American origin, a member of the most suppressed segment of the US Society. Research suggests that both the race of the victim and of the defendant influence sentencing. One study by researchers at Cornell found that defendants with more stereotypically “black features” were more likely to be sentenced to death.
That was a really powerful study. The whole world knows that race has been a big problem with the death penalty in the US for a very long time. Far more people on death row are African American than would be predicted. And studies suggest that the factors that are meant to predict whether someone receives the death penalty don’t predict that – people who commit the worst crimes are not the ones who receive the death penalty. Research from Cornell University suggests that, in a case involving a white victim, defendants with more stereotypically African-American features, were more likely to be sentenced to death.
What was so fascinating about this study was that it showed that it’s not just if you’re black or white; it’s how black you are. So people with thicker lips, wider noses, and darker skin have been more likely than other African-Americans with less stereotypically African-American features to receive the death penalty.
An important point here appears is that a lot of these biases are operating beyond people’s awareness or control. So when it comes to implicit racial bias, for example, it’s not that judges who end up giving African Americans higher bail hate black people or are secret bigots. It appears that they are just susceptible and have been exposed to the same negative stereotypes linking blackness and violence or crime that we all have been exposed to.
In the US the state and federal court systems have at least two levels of courts. At the first level are the trial courts. The higher levels review the decisions of the trial courts. Most of the written legal decisions come from these higher-level courts. This can distort the law because more than 90 percent of lawsuits are settled before trial, and many of those that are tried are settled before a final verdict. Among those that are tried, only a small number are reviewed by higher courts. Cases become the subject of higher court review because they represent a departure from accepted law, they involve peculiar facts or counsel made an error preparing or presenting the case. Even when a case is reviewed, the higher court may choose to uphold the trial court without an opinion. The tendency is for courts to write detailed legal opinions only when they are modifying the law.
The appellate process is lengthy. In many urban jurisdictions, it takes years to get a case to trial and nearly as long to appeal the case to a higher court. Rarely is a legal issue reviewed by a higher court in less than 5 years. 8 to 10 years is much more likely, with complex cases often appearing to be immortal.
Cases involving the internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry were still on appeal after 40 years. When the federal or state Supreme Court finally rules, the opinion is often peripheral to the legal conflict that resulted in the litigation.
This is especially common in medical jurisprudence.
A further study into the US Justice system indicates that if America is burning, it is fair to say that America’s criminal justice system—which is itself a raging dumpster fire of injustice—lit the fuse. Many people who consider themselves to be generally skeptical of government and supportive of individual rights have no idea just how fundamentally broken our criminal justice system is and how wildly antithetical it has become to America’s core constitutional values.
One can easily figure out that there are three fundamental pathologies in America’s criminal justice system that completely undermine its moral and political legitimacy and render it a menace to the very concept of constitutionally limited government. Those three pathologies include unconstitutional over criminalization; point‐and‐convict adjudication; and near- zero accountability for police and prosecutors.
The first and most basic pathology of America’s criminal justice system is that it vastly exceeds the scope of what a criminal justice system may legitimately seek to address while routinely using force against peaceful people is morally indefensible ways.
For example, the Shreveport, LA, Ordinance, made it illegal to wear saggy pants. There were 726 arrests for violating that law during the 12 years it was on the books—96 percent involving black men—and it wasn’t until police shot and killed a man named Anthony Childs while trying to arrest him for wearing saggy pants that the law was finally repealed.
Similarly, of the three most‐preferred drugs in America—alcohol, nicotine, and marijuana—marijuana is by far the safest in terms of consumption-related deaths. But despite that fact and the massive push towards decriminalization, the number of arrests for marijuana offences has been rising, not falling. For example, in Virginia, there were nearly 29,000 arrests for marijuana offences— triple the number from 1999. All of those arrests, by definition, involved the actual or threatened use of state-sanctioned violence for conduct that appears to be no more harmful (and indeed, may well be considerably less harmful) to society than the purchase and consumption of the alcoholic beverages sold at any of the 370 stores operated for profit by the government of Virginia.
It is immoral to use force against another person without sufficient justification, and that is true even when the perpetrator is acting at the behest of the state. At the risk of stating the obvious, the fact that a person prefers the “wrong” not‐ particularly‐harmful intoxicant is not a sufficient moral justification for doing violence to that person. Nor should it represent a sufficient constitutional justification for employing state violence, but unfortunately—and to its immense discredit—our judiciary says otherwise. A baseline constitutional limit on government is that it may not arbitrarily interfere with people’s liberty—including how to worship, where to travel, or what to ingest. Working together, however, the three branches have essentially hacked that limitation using what amounts to a constitutional magic trick whereby the legislative and executive branches simply lie in court about their true justification for enforcing various laws and the judiciary pretends to credit those fraudulent explanations for restricting people’s freedom.
Combining the public choice that motivates US legislators to constantly and indiscriminately expand the scope of the criminal law with the American judiciary’s reckless refusal to enforce the Constitution’s prohibition against unjustified restrictions of liberty results in a criminal justice system that routinely does violence to perfectly decent people for non‐morally‐wrongful conduct that presents no real threat to other people or to society. That is the essence of “unconstitutional overcriminalization,” and it does incalculable damage to the moral and political legitimacy of the US criminal justice system.
Coming to the Point‐and‐convict adjudication, one sees that unconstitutional overcriminalization could never have become the menace it has become in the US today if all criminal charges were adjudicated using the constitutionally prescribed mechanism of a jury trial. That’s because jury trials are expensive and require twelve people to take time away from their jobs, families, and personal lives in order to decide whether to condemn a fellow human being and authorize the often quite vicious punishment the state seeks to inflict. But the US government has hacked yet another key constraint against the abuse of criminal law by replacing expensive, inefficient, and uncertain jury trials with a method of adjudicating criminal charges that is cheap, efficient, and certain: coercive plea bargaining. Indeed, so proficient have prosecutors become at inducing people to condemn themselves that more than 95 percent of all criminal convictions in the US today come from guilty pleas rather than jury trials. As the Supreme Court itself has observed, “[American] criminal justice today is, for the most part, a system of pleas, not a system of trials.”
It brings the question that how on earth would you get someone to choose the certainty of conviction and punishment if they plead guilty over the possibility of acquittal and freedom if they exercise their constitutional right to require the government to prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of a unanimous jury? The answer is pressure—and lots of it.
Coercing criminal defendants into waiving their constitutional right to a jury trial is of course patently unconstitutional. The story, from here goes straight to the doorstep of America’s reckless judiciary, which has made itself complicit in this point-and-convict style of coercive adjudication by systematically turning a blind eye. The US judiciary’s collective indifference to the use of coercion in plea bargaining has resulted in the practical elimination of jury trials and enables the government to obtain convictions without the expense and inconvenience of that constitutionally prescribed procedure.
Coercive plea bargaining represents the US government’s success to enable the criminal-justice wood chipper to operate at full capacity which has actually made America become a country with the highest incarceration rate in the world, indicating immense failure of dispensing the basic human rights.
The third pathology of America’s criminal justice system is its near-zero accountability policy for members of law enforcement, particularly police and prosecutors. The study reflects that American police and prosecutors wield extraordinary power over the lives of others—including even the power of life and death—and yet they are amongst the least accountable people across the globe. And just because the killers of George Floyd were prosecuted for murder, no one should be fooled into supposing that it would have happened without a viral video of the incident, or if the officers’ violent assault had merely injured Floyd instead of killing him. The reality is that US Cops are almost never prosecuted for the crimes they commit under the color of law, and the judiciary has helped ensure that other avenues of accountability, including particularly the ability to bring civil‐damages claims, are largely toothless. What makes that fundamental lack of accountability particularly galling is that the US Cops and prosecutors are in the accountability business—for other people. Just listen to the closing argument of any prosecutor (if you can manage to find a criminal jury trial), and you will hear it dripping with sanctimony as the prosecutor recounts the details of the defendant’s transgressions and imprecates the jury to hold him or her responsible. But when the shoe is on the other foot and a fellow prosecutor stands credibly accused of committing crimes in the course of his or her official duties, then suddenly all concern for responsibility, accountability, and preserving the delicate fabric of civil society goes right out the window as the milk of human kindness flows freely from judges and other prosecutors alike.
It appears that America’s criminal justice system is fundamentally rotten, but the effects of its dysfunction are not felt equally by all Americans. Instead, it is the marginalized and politically disenfranchised who bear the brunt of that injustice, particularly communities of color.
The study reveals that in the US Courts, eyewitness identifications are highly unreliable, especially where the witness and the perpetrator are of different races. Eyewitness reliability is further compromised when the identification occurs under the stress of a violent crime, an accident, or catastrophic event — which pretty much covers all situations where identity is in dispute at trial. To be more precise, mistaken eyewitness testimony has been a factor in more than a third of wrongful conviction cases in US Courts. Yet, courts have been slow in allowing defendants to present expert evidence on the fallibility of eyewitnesses; many courts still don’t allow it. Few, if any, courts instruct juries on the pitfalls of eyewitness identification or caution them to be skeptical of eyewitness testimony. Similarly Identifying prints that are taken by police using fingerprinting equipment and proper technique may be a relatively simple process, but actually, latent prints left in the field are often smudged and incomplete, and the identification process becomes more art than science. When tested by rigorous scientific methods, the US fingerprint examiners turn out to have a significant error rate. Forensic fingerprint identification almost never deals with whole fingerprints in US criminal justice system. Rather, technicians use ‘latent’ fingerprints — invisible impressions that they ‘develop’ using a powder or a chemical developing agent. Latent prints are usually fragmentary, blurred, overlapping, and otherwise distorted. The worst example of such an error occurred in 2004 when the FBI announced that a latent print found on a plastic bag near a Madrid terrorist bombing was “a 100 percent match” to Oregon attorney Brandon Mayfield. The FBI eventually conceded error when Spanish investigators linked the print to someone else.
Research indicates that just like the US criminal legal system itself, plea bargaining in the US Courts has many shortcomings and serious critics. It actually reinforces unjust outcomes, including supporting bias in the criminal justice system and enabling mass incarceration. There are also concerns about extreme power imbalances and the trial penalty, which is the fact that defendants often get significantly more prison time at trial if they reject a plea deal. All these factors contribute to pressuring innocent defendants to plead guilty. There is a complete absence of data and information about plea bargaining in the US courts. Despite its pervasiveness, no one actually knows surprisingly little about how plea bargaining works in practice. No one knows what percentage of criminal cases have plea offers at the arraignment, the first formal appearance in the US courts. No one knows what percentage of criminal cases plead out early in the case or on the eve of trial. No one knows how frequently US prosecutors threaten to add charges or enhancements if the defendant does not take the plea deal – although everybody knows that this does happen. Again no one even knows what percentage of cases plead out to the same charges that were originally filed, compared to lesser charges. It is also not known that how often, or how, judges get involved in the plea bargaining process. This all adds up to make US criminal justice system even more dodgy and dubious.
Apart from this highly faulty criminal justice system, America’s superior judiciary including its Supreme Court also remains in grips of scams and controversies.
The US Supreme Court has been criticized for giving the Federal government too much power to interfere with state authority.
One criticism is that it has allowed the federal government to misuse the Commerce Clause by upholding regulations and legislation that have little to do with interstate commerce, but that were enacted under the guise of regulating interstate commerce; and by voiding state legislation for allegedly interfering with interstate commerce.
US Supreme Court has also been targeted for misusing the Fourteenth Amendment in the US Constitution to undermine state authority.
British constitutional scholar Adam Tomkins sees flaws in the American system of having courts (and specifically the Supreme Court) act as checks on the Executive and Legislative branches. He argues that because the courts must wait, sometimes for years, for cases to wind their way through the system, their ability to restrain the other two branches is severely weakened. Judicial interference in political disputes.
Some US Supreme Court decisions have been criticized for injecting the Court into the political arena and deciding questions that are the purview of the other two branches of government.
In The Bush v. Gore decision, in which the Supreme Court intervened in the 2000 US Presidential election, ending an in-process recount in Florida (effectively choosing Bush Jr over Gore for US President) has been criticized extensively, particularly by liberals.
US Supreme Court decisions on apportionment and re-districting are also cited as evidence of this criticism. In Baker v. Carr, the court decided it could rule on apportionment questions.
A US Judge, Justice Frankfurter in a “scathing dissent” argued against the court wading into so-called “political questions.
The US Supreme Court decisions have been criticized for failing to protect individual rights. To cite some examples in this regard one can quote,
1) The Dred Scott (1857) decision upheld slavery.
2) Plessy v Ferguson (1896) upheld segregation under the doctrine of separate but equal.
3) Kelo v. City of New London (2005) was criticized by prominent politicians, including New Jersey governor Jon Corzine, as undermining property rights.
4) A student criticized a 1988 ruling that allowed school officials “to block publication of a student article in the high school newspaper.”
Criticism of US Supreme Court for Secret proceedings:
The US Supreme Court has also been criticized for keeping its deliberations hidden from public view. Its inner workings are difficult for reporters to cover, only revealing itself through public events and printed releases, with nothing about its inner workings.
Few dig deeply into court affairs. It all works very neatly; the only ones hurt are the American people, who know little about nine individuals with enormous power over their lives.
Creating a culture of legal intimidation:
The US Supreme Court has also been often criticized for promoting a culture in which “law is wielded as a weapon of intimidation rather than as an instrument of protection, leading to “a nation paralyzed by fear, unwilling to assume responsibility, both overly reliant on authority and distrustful of it.
In the light of this state of affairs in the Judiciary back home, one can see as to how Americans can claim to be custodians of justice and human rights in any part of the world. It is very clear that the American first need to put their own house in order in this direction before going out to teach anyone else.
The nitwits sitting in the Senate and the Lower house of USA should first remove the rot from their system before trying to lecture India and other democracies around the World.