Saturday, January 19, 2008

The power over life and death

So our justice system has its benefits and problems, and while I recognize many of the problems, I also tend to try and point out its benefits: habeas corpus, right to trial by jury, the fact that subjective judgment can just as often prove advantageous to a defendant or appellant as it does disadvantageous. But this is absurd. According to the New York Times, a witness was coached by prosecution into making his confession match the physical evidence in a murder scene. This is understandable, though. Misconduct always occurs, which is why there is a system of checks and balances that extends throughout the judicial hierarchy. This is why we have boards of reviews and ethical committees, right? Wrong. The Virginia State Bar ethics committee for ten years denied the defense lawyer on the case the right to reveal the misconduct of the prosecuting attorneys. What a farce. When an ethics committee cares more about the reputation of a prosecuting attorney than the life of a human being, how are we supposed to take legal ethics seriously? Either we should change the name to something more bureaucratic and militaristic like "Committee for the Review of Protocol and Chain-of-Command" or we should actually start teaching ethics in law school.

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