Blog Two: What is Justice?

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What is justice? Until we started discussions in class, I didn't realize just how complex this question is. The U.S. Department of Justice has a mission statement that reads: "To enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States according to the law; to ensure public safety against threats foreign and domestic; to provide federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime; to seek just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior; and to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans." But what we may consider to be "fair and impartial" can easily be criticized when taking into consideration recent events, namely the government ordered killings of Osama Bin Laden and Troy Davis. Both situations are obviously different in nature. While Bin Laden was most certainly guilty of terrorism, the charges against Davis come with much uncertainty and that brings into question whether death is a proper punishment in any situation. Consider some facts about the death penalty... According to Amnesty International's website, 130 people have been acquitted of crimes that landed them on death row. In most situations, those put to death were unable to afford proper representation and statistics show that the murder of a white victim is much more likely to lead to a death sentence than the murder of an African American citizen. Most startling, African Americans are three times more likely to be punished with the death penalty than white defendants, when the victim is white. In my home state of Wisconsin the death penalty is illegal, however, our old senator Russ Feingold made a statement about the blatant inequality: "We simply cannot say we live in a country that offers equal justice to all Americans when racial disparities plague the system by which our society imposes the ultimate punishment." Since 1976, 77% of homicides which ultimately result in the death penalty have been related to white victims, compared to only 15% African American, 6% Hispanic and 2% of other minority homicides. In most situations where the death penalty is imposed, the decision can be completely based on luck. For example, the jury, politics, and media attention of a crime can affect the outcome of a decision. Quite frequently, individuals charged with the exact same crime can be punished in two completely different ways. And while these statistics and this research are generalized, in the case of Troy Davis, even greater examples of injustice can be brought out. The lack of evidence and reports of perjury add to the questionable nature of the charge. So was justice really served? Is justice ever really served with the death penalty? What I find the most difficult about this situation is the systematic nature of the killing. It is difficult to understand what gives the government special permission to terminate the life of another. When I think of justice, I think of fair, equal, and most importantly, ethical treatment of all human beings. However, in our society, it can be difficult for someone to see justice as anything other than punishment for a crime. There is no real justice for the family of a victim. Their loved one will never return. So is it fair to impose the same fate on the family of a perpetrator? Justice reaches further than victim and criminal. The most difficult aspect of this view of justice is how to decide what is just. However, I believe that we must look at the effects our actions have on all people. For Troy Davis, justice was systematically prevented. It is unfair to assume that race played a role in the decision, but looking at the facts, it makes it seem much more likely. So while a small sect of society feels that justice has been served that leaves me with the thought, "an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind."

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This page contains a single entry by fenlo012 published on September 22, 2011 6:09 PM.

Interesting Perspective was the previous entry in this blog.

Blog 2...What is Justice? is the next entry in this blog.

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