With Kobe Bryant on trial for rape and Michael Jackson’s recent arrest for child molestation, many people, including myself, think that the justice system is a joke. High profile citizens with a lot of money seem above the law.
Is the justice system still effective? Has the free economy allowed inidividuals to attain too much power?
Any thoughts appreciated…
People with money definitely do have an advantage in being able to hire better lawyers and pay for their own investigations and expert witnesses. A lot of celebrities may also have a natural advantage in that juries may become star struck, charmed or simply be more likely to disbelieve allegations. However none of that is a guarantee that a defendant will walk, just that they can put up a better defense. If the evidence is strong enough the jury will likely convict (OJ excluded, of course. The OJ case was an aberration in many ways). Another thing that seems to happen quite often is that famous people will simply plea down and get better deals that they would if they were poor. They seem to be able to negotiate non-prison terms more often than not.
This is (IMO) an inherently unfair aspect of the justice system but I don’t know what can be done about it short of forcing Johnny Cochren to do a minimum amount of pro bono work as a public defender.
the system isn’t completely broken. Some celebrities do go to prison (Robert Downey Jr., Christian Slater, Chong) and juries every day acquit poor defendants with court appointed counsel. I don’t think the sky is falling. I think some things need to be tweaked (and much of it legislatively) but I wouldn’t want to be a defendant in any other system.
I guess, like many other things, this is a shortcoming in a mostly useful system.
If celebrities were above the law, then Bryant and Jackson wouldn’t have been arrested, would they? Nor Robert Blake nor Phil Spector, for that matter. Even the O.J. Simpson acquittal was by a jury, not the legal system.
There’s even a case for celebrities perhaps being more susceptible to the legal system than us - a lot of people have played with stocks to a much greater extent than Martha Stewart without getting into trouble.
I’d add one small thing…
Remember that the Gov’t has an effectively unlimited supply of money with which to hire consultant expert witnesses. They have access to the police departments everywhere, as well as multiple federal law enforcement agencies and laboratories and confidential informants and plea bargainers and so on.
You have whatever you can afford.
Mind you, that’s taking it to an extreme, but I’m trying to make a point that the gov’t already has you outmanned, and outmoneyed. Having been involved in multiple criminal trials (mostly misdemeanor and an occaisional felony) As a witness, never a defendent, I want to share a story with you.
A very good friend of mine had a Grand Jury find his case was NOT a true bill (which is pretty damn rare considering the prosecution is effectively the only one presenting much evidence). Effectively it means the GJ hasn’t found enough evidence to proceed with a trial and vacates the charges. We’re talking about something that probably happens less than five or six times a year in any given state. Even his lawyer was open mouthed.
So the Commonwealths Attorney turned around and direct indicted him. Which just amazed me. I mean, seriously, why bother with a Grand Jury system at all if it’s apparently just for show? Why waste everyone’s time and pretend it serves a purpose? That case ended up going on over a year before trial… which was one day and a total acquittal for my friend with the CA bailing just before to leave it to her assistant and the Judge clearly PO’d at the CA for both bailing and effectively wasting his time on a no brainer.
I’ve never actually seen a Judge that mad before. He was fuming at the Assistant CA.
Anyways, I don’t begrudge people being able to afford their own defense teams. Sure OJ had a buncha lawyers, but so did the State of CA. Not like they were outmanned or anything.
(Turns out that the CA had a probable conflict of interest to begin with since she personally knew the accuser, which may be why she didn’t let it die when the GJ returned a “Not a True Bill”.)