Our scales of justice are out of balance


by Dan Lucas

In the course of doing research recently, I had occasion to read a number of criminal histories. I was struck by the sense of entitlement the criminals had. They seemed to feel that it was OK for them to commit the most heinous crimes, including murder, but that everyone else had to follow every single rule — to the letter. The criminals would tie up our legal system with complaints that some rule had been broken or some technicality had been missed, and so they shouldn’t have to be in jail for the crime they committed.

It’s a sense of entitlement fostered by our legal system, where every possible consideration is given to the accused and their rights. Those same considerations are not given to the victims and their families and friends. The scales in our system of justice are out of balance.

One of the fundamental concepts in our system of criminal law is reasonable doubt — which has its roots in Sir William Blackstone’s ratio: “It is better that ten guilty persons escape, than that one innocent suffer.” The flaw in this ratio was pointed out to me by an old friend who attended law school. If ten guilty people are allowed to go free, they will go on to cause suffering for many more innocent victims.

This same contrary opinion to Blackstone’s ratio was expressed by Al Gore’s 2000 VP running mate, Sen. Joe Lieberman. In a 2003 interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Sen. Joe Lieberman relayed something he’d read: “If you show too much mercy to those who are cruel, you will end up being cruel to those who deserve mercy.”

This over emphasis of mercy for the accused results in some pretty horrific numbers. As I noted back in January, only 1-to-10% of child molestation crimes are ever disclosed and almost two thirds of sexual assaults are not reported to police. The Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) further reports that 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail. These numbers are appalling. We should be ashamed of our legal system and our society.

It’s nice that people want to give someone like Woody Allen the benefit of the doubt, but where’s the benefit of the doubt for someone like Dylan Farrow?

The horrific numbers continue. TNT’s reality crime-solving show “Cold Justice” shows a stunning number at the start of each episode: “Nearly 200,000 homicides since 1980 remain unsolved.” The families and friends of all of those victims have to live not only with the terrible loss, but also the additional pain caused by the injustice and not knowing. And for the cases that are solved and successfully prosecuted, showing mercy to those who are cruel causes additional pain to the families and friends of victims in the form of dealing with murderabilia, reliving the nightmare by having to go before parole boards and legislatures to prevent early release, or dealing with taunting from the killers. Mercy for the killers can even lead to new victims — there are several cases of killers escaping from death row, including an instance in 1984 where six death row inmates escaped together.

We need to tip the scales of justice — in our laws and in our culture — towards being more in favor of innocent victims and their families and friends.

To read more from Dan, visit www.dan-lucas.com