What is justice and does it matter?

As a writer of crime fiction, I’m addicted to listening to the news, and there are certain stories that seem to resonate with me.  So was the case for a story which aired on March 23, 2015, titled “Prosecutor Apologizes for Putting Innocent Man on Death Row”.

Those who have worked in the criminal justice field know this to be an unspoken truth.  Not everyone serving time is guilty, and not everyone who got acquitted of a charge is innocent.

Guilty or innocent, when a crime happens and a suspect is determined, the first question posed is rather or not said individual is innocent or guilty, but in the large scope of things, does it really matter?

I’ve had to deal with this question for years. Fiction and Hollywood always tries to make it out that good always wins, the innocent will not be punished for something that he hasn’t been done. But reality is indeed something different. Although there are no perfect crimes, imperfect people deal with overworked case loads, faulty evidence and often the man or woman believed to be guilty actually has no evidence to prove his innocence — what do you do when you have no alibi and everyone says you did a crime you truly didn’t do?

Not everyone convicted of a crime has indeed committed it, and not everyone who has walked away Scott free is innocent.

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photo credit: Handcuffs via photopin (license)

Unfortunately, this is a matter that has plagued the criminal justice system for ages. While many of the incarcerated are behind bars due to  false witness statements, the misidentifying of suspects, contaminated evidence, and even those willing to plant evidence for a conviction, there are also other missteps that lead to false convictions, including police quotas, underpaid staffing, lazy attorneys and even racial bias. Basic human error (and our being fallible) has led to many individuals receiving a raw deal, spending often decades of their lives paying for a crime they never committed.

Our justice system is broken and many of the laws enacted make it difficult for those innocent of a crime to indeed prove their innocence, although they technically don’t have to (as one is supposed to be innocent until proven guilty). It is an uphill battle, but one that I believe can still be won, when the right tools are not only known, but also used to the benefit of the convicted.

Unfortunately, life is not a mystery novel, and the clues don’t always line up. Yet, it is my hope that as more experienced hands from the field of criminal justice step forward, and as more not-guilty souls are released from their iron clad cells, that we as a society will come to understand that justice isn’t black or white; instead, it is often many different shades of gray.
What is your take on things? What is justice and does it really matter if it is served?

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90d3f-shadows-1TINA GLASNECK‘s day job causes her to propound legal quandaries, and as a crime writer, she creates worlds filled with murder, mystery, mayhem and more! She is currently working on the third novel in her Spark Before Dying Series. Learn more about Tina and join her mailing list for exciting updates and opportunities at  TinaGlasneck.com

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3 thoughts on “What is justice and does it matter?

  1. I’m going to have to disagree with you this time – I see the problem with any police, anywhere, has always been a mentality of “winning” by getting a conviction any way possible, along with other abuses of power, lack of moral fiber (for the lack of a better term), the dumbing down factor of any bureaucracy, and human laziness. Rather than believing our system is broken, I see science (such as DNA identification) along with the public’s heightened awareness of brutality, seeing a better trained, more racially diverse and more educated force coming along all making things go in a more positive direction – not worse – despite the mistakes still made.

    • Seems like we are going to have to agree to disagree, Elvy. Although I agree that things are on the way to being better, and the wheels of justice are slowly being repaired, refurbished and the disparity in sentencing between the wealthy, politically connected and poor are starting to average out — we are a long way from being there. The fact that there are too many innocent people serving time for crimes they have not committed and the lack of opportunities to clear their names and be restored to society is astonishing. As long as innocent people die at the hands of the state (death row), and as long as innocent people continue to serve crimes they did not commit based on circumstantial evidence, false witness testimony, and witness tampering (just to name a few), then our system lacks that which it needs to be able to fully erect sentences and hold many behind its steel bars. When an innocent life is lost due to blind justice, then the system has failed that which it was meant to protect. That is not to say that those who have committed crimes are not serving deserved sentences, but I am speaking of those who are innocent. I see it like this: even a broken clock is correct twice a day.

  2. When I was a kid, I had this terrible fear of being charged with a crime I didn’t commit, and no way to prove my innocence. I even took it so far as to find myself (in my head) on death row. (I know, neurotic from the start.) This is a complex issue, and I think we’re starting to make progress, at least acknowledging the problems exist.

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