Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Accountability and the Legal System

Accountability; Where Hast Thou Gone?

I'm watching the news...I'm shaking my head.  Once again, a student has shot up his school.  Once again.  I am afraid.  I am afraid for the future of humankind.  What has happened to us?  And more importantly, what will become of us?  But the most important question of all is; where did this all start?

Can we trace it back to one specific moment?  I don't think so.  This has been a gradual process that snuck out of the legal system slowly but surely until it became all consuming and all that any lawyer with persuasive skills strove for. 

The Defense.

Back in the day, Legal Courts ruled swiftly and harshly, and crime was punished and put down with great force and with very little protest.  Of course, this was not ideal.  Many innocent people were put to death.  Even more were sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes they didn't commit for lack of someone to speak on their behalf.  Thus, the defense lawyer was born.  Certainly, there have always been defense lawyers, but they did not function to try and free their clients, because the assumption of guilt was always there, but worked to lessen a sentence instead.

However, as the years progressed, Defense Lawyers started getting smart.  They found loopholes in the system and in the endless, confusing writings of our law books.  They learned how to reinterpret regulation, rules, laws, and ultimately,  human behaviour and eventually the accused was no longer presumed guilty and the burden of proving guilt rested on the shoulders of the Prosecution.  And on top of all that, the Defense also found Psychologists.

Psychologists are important.  They are needed, but they have also been a part of the downfall of our legal system.  Of course, many crimes are committed due to mental illness, but this is not always the case, and often, the Defense tries to make it look like that.  Temporary insanity, they say.  How convenient.  Depression, they continue.

It just goes on and on. 

But back to the problem at hand.  How did we become such a consciousless society?  What happened that gave us the go ahead to do whatever we want to do without a care in the world?  Who gave our children the idea that no matter what crime you commit, you can get away with it?  and more importantly, why are they committing these crimes in the first place?

Over the years, we have been watching the news.  We have been watching people like OJ Simpson, clearly guilty, escape punishment largely because of the savvy of his lawyers.  We have watched the Columbine shootings and listened to the reasons why those boys committed those crimes and why it was justified.  We have listened to Psychologists explain that when children feel like they can't measure up, they can turn psychotic, and should not be held responsible for their actions in those instances.

As if not making the hockey team should be reason enough to kill your coach.  As if not being able to stay out past your curfew, or date the boy you want to should be reason enough to murder your parents.

It is disgusting and more to the point; ridiculous what we have allowed to happen in our society.  Everyone knows that whatever happens, a lawyer is waiting to defend.  And the more sensational the crime, the more lawyers willing to defend it.  Money is not needed to retain a good lawyer anymore.  The media coverage on such a case is more than enough to entice the best of them.

So it was a proud day for many Canadians when Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada laid out his proposition to come down hard on young, violent offenders.  Many people, and especially victims, thought  that this is something Canada can be proud of.  For some reason, we have fooled ourselves into thinking that a 12 year old cannot know what he is doing because his brain is still developing and that distinguishing from right and wrong is difficult for them.

My 5 and 7 year olds have understood that concept very well from the age of 2.  There is no lack of understanding on their part when they do something wrong and are sent to the corner for it.  Saying a 12 year old doesn't is a ridiculous notion.  Perhaps he can't imagine the consequence, but he knows very well the right and wrong of his decisions.

I think we need to be even more frightened of a 12 year old who commits a violent crime because if he doesn't have a conscience now, imagine what he'll be like at 20.

We have to stop fooling ourselves and living in a society where we let crime go unpunished, heaping excuse upon excuse on it instead.  We have lost our accountability.  We keep passing the buck, pointing the finger, and we act like children whining; 'he made me do it!' 

We should be embarrassed.  I know I am.