Preserving the Rule of Law

This past weekend, we celebrated Independence Day.  We celebrated everything that makes this country great.  From the way laws are made to the way they are enforced.  As a family, we read the Declaration of Independence where every grievance the colonies had against the King of England that gave them reason to draft the document in the first place.  Some of those grievances include:

– He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
– For protecting [the military], by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:
– For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:
– For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:

There are many more grievances listed in the document, but I have selected these in order to point out some things I have seen over the past couple days.

On Monday, in spite of the burn bans in Texas and elsewhere, the entire country celebrated our freedoms.  From the right to speak freely to the right to bear arms, all freedoms were celebrated.  Those who have fought and/or died in order to create and preserve those freedoms for us were thanked and cheered.

One of the most important freedoms that we enjoy as a result of the effort by those defending those freedoms, is the right to a trial by jury.  Why is this particular freedom so important that it was included in both the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights (Amendment 7)?  There have been many discussions both in the media and in the legal areas as to the effectiveness of jury trials.

A judge knows the law and is able to interpret the law.  However, the primary role of judge should not be to determine guilt, but rather to ensure the law is followed.  When a trial goes before a jury, there is a simple rule that makes the system work.  The defendant is innocent.  It is up to the prosecution to prove that the defendant is guilty.  If the prosecution does not do its job to the best of its ability, then the defendant is found to be not guilty.

Yesterday (Tuesday), a decision of not guilty was handed down by a jury of 12 individuals as to whether a woman had killed her young child.  The media went crazy.  Individuals were livid.  No one could understand why she would be found not guilty.  In the middle of it all, there were cries that the justice system is broken, that it no longer works.  This is patently false, and I believe it is the feeling that justice was not served that has caused many of the comments.

To be honest, I have not followed the case.  I know the basics.  I also know that the media has portrayed her as guilty.  Whether in fact she is or is not guilty, the public has determined her guilt in their minds.  However, the public does not have all the information available to them.

While she may actually be guilty, the prosecution did not prove that beyond a reasonable doubt.  The prosecution did not do its job to the best of its ability.  But if she is, in fact, not guilty, then the defense did its job correctly, and justice was served.

Without the ability to read minds, a trial by jury is the fairest method we have of determining guilt or innocence.  Will some incorrect decisions be made?  Yes.  That is inevitable.  We are human, and will make mistakes.  For that very reason, guilt and innocence must rest on the heads of a group rather than a single individual.  The founders of our nation knew this.  It was a central argument in the founding of our nation.  Everything must have a check and must be balanced by something else.  Some mistakes will inevitably make it through the checks and balances.  But the vast majority will not.

What Tuesday’s decision and Monday’s celebration should do is cause us not to look at what is wrong in this country, but rather to reflect on what is right.  There is no reason for us to be ashamed that one person has been let go that we feel shouldn’t have been.  If she truly is guilty, something will happen, and it will come out.  She may never serve jail time for the death of her child, but if she truly is guilty, she will have to live with that lie for the rest of her life.  There is no hope for her that she will be able to gain self-forgiveness for it.  It will eat at her, and she will suffer.  She is already going to have to fight public opinion every day of the rest of her life.

The courts found her not guilty.  They did not find her innocent.  I know it is just a matter of semantics with that, but it is an important difference to identify.  Not guilty does not equal innocent.  She was already innocent in the eyes of the law.  She was simply not found guilty in the eyes of the law.  And that is the way it should be.

The system works as well as it can without having an all-knowing judge.  But short of that, we have the best system possible.  The rule of law has been upheld.  Let us not forget that, and be grateful that if we are ever put on trial for a crime we did not commit, that we will have the best justice system around to show that we ourselves are not guilty.

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