You see, Kennedy announced a simple truth that amounts to revealing that the emperor has no clothes. Trials, juries and all that paraphernalia of justice that we see on TV has almost nothing do with what happens in our nation's courts -- and unless we find ourselves in that unfamiliar arena, most of us don't know that. The Justice explained how criminal "justice" works in the real world:
Now we know. The Supremes spelled it out.
Having the courts involved in judging whether ill-educated, often very young, frequently mentally disturbed defendants had competent legal advice as to their best interests when confronted by the power of the state has to improve the fairness of criminal proceedings.
Because I am working to end death sentences, I note particularly the Justice's mention of the heavy charges brought by prosecutors simply to coerce defendants into pleading out without trial. No wonder many District Attorney's want to keep the ability to threaten defendants with the death penalty. It is not surprising that if someone held by the cops thinks the state could actually kill him, he'll "agree" to pretty much anything to avoid what looks like the worst. Death Penalty Focus reports some of what can go wrong:
All defendants need competent lawyers throughout their encounter with the state AND we should take the death penalty out of the equation. Replacing the death penalty with a sentence of life without possibility of parole would make for more certain, less costly, and more just outcomes in the criminal justice system.
I don't want to just gripe here all the time. I do after all, quite frequently, encounter things and people that delight me. Hence this feature: occasional posts labeled "rays of effing sunshine." Photo via Blogonaut