One Graham's View

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Criminal Justice: more than just a phrase

Good morning,

Even though it has been nearly 16 years since I read it, I still recall one particular comment about the phrase “criminal justice” in one of my CJ textbooks.
The only ones who get justice are the criminals.”
It was accompanied by an editorial cartoon that showed a District Attorney and the accused’s attorney cutting a deal in the hallways outside the courtroom. The cartoon was captioned, “The real halls of justice.”

To correctly comprehend the phrase and the cartoon, one must understand the context in which they were used. The chapter was discussing criminal courts and prosecution of criminals. The passage was discussing plea agreements and how they serve both the prosecution and the accused, but the deals struck in the hallways outside of the courtroom often give the public impression that a prosecutor let somebody off light.

I’m a pretty strong advocate for strict sentencing and punishment and often cringe at some of the plea agreements that prosecutors strike. I understand that these usually indicate a case that is weak or that is on-going, but one where the jury’s sentiments are seeming to be slipping away from the state’s case.

All that being said, I really like a couple of recent incidents where justice has been served. One was handed down by the court and the other was dished out by a vengeful family member.

First, in a Delaware case,
a flasher convicted of twice exposing himself
to a 10-year old girl at his workplace was ordered to wear a t-shirt with the words, “I’m A Registered Sex Offender” in bold letters. He will have to wear the t-shirt for 22 months after he serves the 60 days he was also sentenced to serve in the county jail

The 69-year old pervert owns a gardening business and there is a strong potential that other, unsuspecting children may fall prey to his flashing. The prosecutor wanted the t-shirt as a punishment to help warn others to his sick past. If his past is any indication—he has 10 convictions in the past 30 years for the same charge of indecent exposure—there is a strong likelihood that he will do this again. At least, with the t-shirt on, parents will have a head’s up. Maybe the publicity from the story will cause community advocates to cause social pressure on him as well.

The punishment is similar to those often handed down by former Texas judge Ted Poe. When he was on the bench, Poe often would bring the public scrutiny and shame factor into the punishment by having those convicted of crimes in his court to perform some public duty with a sign declaring their guilt. An example might be someone who was convicted of stealing from a store would have to spend a week walking in front of that store with a sign declaring, “I stole from this store.” (I’m glad to say, Ted Poe is now my congressman and I did vote to re-elect him yesterday.)

Then, there is the
Katie’s Revenge case,
Where the killer of a 10-year old Indiana girl named Katie, had the words “Katies Revenge” forcibly tattooed on his forehead. Of course, this was not a court ordered punishment, but the act of another prisoner, who, lo and behold, just happened to be Katie’s cousin.

I’m not advocating vigilante justice, but in a world where all too often there is not a punishment severe enough to atone for the most heinous crimes, it did bring a smile to my face when I heard about the cousin avenging the death of a little girl who couldn’t do so for herself.

So, these are my thoughts on criminal justice. I like to see justice served and commend the judges and juries who do their duty. I like creative sentencing like the t-shirt to bring shame and attention to where it needs to be. If somebody breaks the law, let them face the music. If somebody is convicted of a shameful act, bring them out of the shadows and make the public aware. And, last but not least, if somebody hurts a child, look out! You never know where their kinfolks are!

OGV

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