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Our unJust-ice system

In our system of government, there are designated checks and balances designed to protect the individual from abuse, so that when one area fails, citizens can look to another branch. When it comes to the drug war, however, all bets are off.

Both the executive and legislative branches have been, for the most part, so corrupted by the drug war (or neutered by it) that they’re intractable despite scientific and public policy evidence. And they have maintained their position in the electorate in part through spewing decades of drug war propaganda (although that is now finally wearing thin).

The Supreme Court has long had a significant drug war exception to the Bill of Rights and has never really challenged the government to prove its blatantly false assertions that limiting rights will actually succeed in reducing drug problems.

That leaves the jury system. Nullification is a legitimate way to deal with bad laws, but even there, the Justice system has gone out of its way to try to convince juries that they don’t have that basic innate power.

Even still, the jury system could come into play. Lots of folks have noted there are so many drug cases, that if all drug defendants demanded a jury trial as entitled under the Constitution, the entire court system would collapse. And it’s true.

But here’s where the almost unlimited power of the prosecutor comes into play.

The legislatures have given prosecutors a virtual smorgasbord of charging options, almost all with steep minimum penalties — possession, sale, intent, conspiracy, school zones, gun laws, money laundering, etc. Without even batting an eye, they can pile up enough charges to put you in prison for eternity. (Some years back, one enterprising prosecutor even tried to use a terrorism law against weapons of mass destruction on a meth lab case.)

So going to court is no longer about determining guilt or non-guilt, but rather about negotiating with the prosecutor.

Jacob Sullum has a good piece about Chris Williams, the Montana medical marijuana grower: Plead Guilty or Go to Prison for Life

Yet five years is a cakewalk compared to the sentence Williams originally faced, which would have kept the 38-year-old father behind bars for the rest of his life. The difference is due to an extremely unusual post-conviction agreement that highlights the enormous power prosecutors wield as a result of mandatory minimum sentences so grotesquely unjust that in this case even they had to admit it.

Of more than two dozen Montana medical marijuana providers who were arrested following federal raids in March 2011, Williams is the only one who insisted on his right to a trial. For that he paid a steep price.

Significant reform of the Justice system is required if we’re going to salvage any meaning from our Constitution. But that won’t happen until we end this damned drug war.

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14 comments to Our unJust-ice system

  • pfroehlich2004

    Gee, at least we’re not one of those brutal dictatorships that uses torture to extract confessions. We merely threaten non-compliant defendants with life behind bars.

    Well-liked Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  • divadab

    When a society grants excessive powers without checks and balances, it encourages the worst behavior rather than curbing it. In the case of prosecutors, the oppressive tools in their drug war tool kit encourage them to exercise unjust dominion.

    It’s a systematic problem – the underlying laws are unjust. Just as the systematic corruption of the federal government, where our “representatives” have their jobs purchased for them by wealthy sponsors, for whom they work if they know what’s good for them.

    Ir’s a sad end to our once-great republic, usurped by the greediest and most corrupt and run for their benefit.

    Well-liked Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  • Dante

    Those individuals who benefit from our current (corrupt) system of criminal justice are the exact same people who have been entrusted with the power to change the system.

    And they simply won’t do it. Call it what you will, but there is no way to convince a government servant to derail his own gravy train. They lack the necessary character and integrity required for such a task.

    Protect & Serve (Themselves!)

    It’s not just bad cops anymore, it’s our entire government. Congress, the President, the Supreme Court – all corrupt.

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  • When you can go to trial knowing ahead of time that you won’t be able to mount a defense because its not allowed, its just a sorry excuse for what USED TO BE justice.

    Well-liked Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

    • Peter

      i find it hard to believe that being unable to mount a defense like this (ie cannabis was for medically approved use under state law) has not been challenged in the supreme court. these trials are becoming more and more like stalinist show trials with similar draconian penalties.

      Well-liked Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  • We could do entirely without the process of plea bargaining. When courts became overcrowded with non violent drug offenders, the easier solution was to introduce plea bargaining as a solution. Ending the new drug war would have solved it and we could have kept our system of Justice.

    Now its more like a market place where you can haggle over the price you WILL PAY for the goods. Where guilty until proven innocent has replaced the idea of innocent until proven guilty.

    Plea bargaining as a system of justice is a failure.

    Well-liked Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  • Byddaf yn egluro:

    .

    A magic snail then guided us
    Along the western trail
    That led us to a man named Frum
    Who was waiting for his mail

    Well-liked Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  • Servetus

    Corporatocracy influences the judicial system to be efficient. Cheap justice is the key. Drug defendants are put on a conveyor belt, various odd charges get tacked on as they roll by, and the defendant is spit out the other side into the waiting justice cage. Factory efficiency isn’t just for chicken eggs anymore.

    Corrupt judicial systems are bulletproof for a reason. It’s because they’re common. Anyone who dared criticize the inquisitions or witch hunts in their day would end up being formally charged as a heretic or witch. An effective legal defense was not allowed. The chief duty of an appointed attorney was to get the heretic or witch to confess and plead guilty, much like the duty of present day public defenders. It was the same way in Nazi Germany. Corrupt judicial systems act to protect the corrupt or inept status quo, not the people. It’s an old story.

    Waging war on a judiciary requires some out-of-the-box thinking. It’s unlikely that anything can be achieved employing the system to judge itself and act on moral grounds. They’re going to act as their own judge and jury, in any case.

    Employing as an analogy Che Guevara’s excellent treatise, Guerrilla Warfare, (a recommended read), Che says if the guerilla fighter can’t mount a successful attack against the main body of the enemy because of its strength or numbers, the idea is to attack what can be disrupted. Supply lines, communications, sources of money, and other items essential to the main body’s survival, often aren’t as well protected, and are subject to outside influences and disruptions.

    The war on prohibition must be directed against its supporters and benefactors, the lifeblood of the system. If they’re forced to fight a war directly, rather than relying on the ONDCP/DEA and the courts to act as their lightening rods, they won’t want to fight, because beneath all the money they make on prohibition, they’re really just a bunch of lazy cowards.

    Well-liked Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  • Chris

    Justin bieber smoked a blunt! Are you surprised? No? Well someone died trying to take a photo of what they thought to be him doing it, but now it’s pretty much confirmed. This story is pretty pointless, but I’m saddened prohibition makes it profitable enough for “catching” people smoking weed to be worth dying over. http://www.tmz.com/2013/01/04/justin-bieber-marijuana-pot-blunt-smoking-picture-photo/

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    • darkcycle

      Who cares? And who’s Justin Bieber? I heard about the wreck…at least the Ferrari was undamaged. That was CLOSE!

      Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

      • darkcycle

        I suppose, this does confirm once and for all, that when being chased by the Paparazzi that a Ferrari is a better choice than a big Mercedes. Diana just made the wrong choice is all.

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        • Duncan20903

          .
          .

          But the photographer wanted to expose that Mr. Bieber was driving impaired and creating a menace to public safety on the highway! Oh and a big fat paycheck but that’s neither here nor there.

          A word of friendly warning, those comments columns under articles about Mr. Bieber choosing to enjoy cannabis are going to be lousy with comments from people who have no business knowing how to read and write the English language.

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  • primus

    depends whether you want to flee or ram.

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