- Swanson, A. (2015). The U.S. court system is criminally unjust. The Washington Post. Retrieved on 28March 2018 from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/07/20/why-the-u-s-court-system-is-criminally-unjust/?utm_term=.c5aea1ad5817
- Iannelli, J. (2018). Judge Kills Florida’s Racist System That Stops Former Felons From Voting. Miami New Times. Retrieved on 28 March 2018 from http://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/florida-felon-voting-ban-ruled-unconstitutional-10048415
Believe that U.S courts’ decisions are guided by fair judges and determined by Constitution wisdom remains a wishful thinking. Psychology research shows that backgrounds, time, and unconscious prejudice on appearance, gender, and race influence the outcomes of a case. Benforado uses neuroscience and psychology in exposing the unfairness in the US legal system. His book shows that mistakes are more common in the criminal justice system than expected. Example of such a mistake is in the rape case in Meriweather County in Georgia in 1979. In the case, the victim looked at five men in a line-up and picked one as the criminal who raped her. Jerome was sentenced and imprisoned for several years. Years later when the DNA test was done, Jerome was found innocent. Even though the victim had given a description fitting another man in the line up to the police, they relied on the line-up strategy alone to identify the criminal (Swanson, 2015).
Research shows that race determines the type of sentence a criminal gets. Instead of people committing the worst crimes to get the death penalty, black people receive the penalty even with a crime that is not severe. In addition, interpersonal differences also influence the outcome of a case. The stereotypes that link black people and crime impacts the behaviour in the real world including influencing court outcomes. To control such bias, the US court system should control biasing factors by preventing the court to see the color or physical appearance of a defendant by introducing virtual adjudication. Meanwhile judges and juries should decide a case based on the law and facts. Diversity on the benches is also a potential solution to biasness in the US court system (Swanson, 2015).
I agree with the author that of the article that the U.S court system is unjust. Various cases have been presented where courts in the U.S have decided on a case based on the race of the defendant instead of basing the decisions on facts and on the law. In most cases, black people tend to attract heavy penalties compared to the white counterparts who have committed a similar crime. Case decisions based on such biases can result in mistakes where innocent people are imprisoned while the actual culprits are left in the society causing more conflicts. The stereotypes that black people are more criminals are string strong that even black people themselves link people who are blacker to criminal activities. This increases the risk of courts making their decision based on race (Swanson, 2015). It is thus important to come up with strategies that will address biasing factors by having a diverse group on the bench and may be in future consider the use of virtual space where judges are unaware of the race of the defendants promoting the use of law and facts in making their decisions.
The article does not answer the question whether all judges in the US courts base their decisions on non-factual factors such as race. It is unclear whether all cases in the US court if systems are criminally unjust. The answer would be that the whole court system in the US is not criminally unjust. While there are several complaints about biasness in the courts, there are many other cases that involve black people and have been decided based on the law and facts. Some judges in the system maintain professionalism and believe in diversity limiting their capability of deciding on a case based on appearance, gender, or race (Swanson, 2015). They focus on legal investigations to obtain facts useful in making the appropriate decisions. It is important to recognize that the court system has been helpful in controlling crimes in the country and therefore most of the decisions are fair. The minority in the system basing the decisions on non-factual factors should be streamlined to ensure that the system is just.
The article is presented in an unfair and biased manner. The author seems to be against the U.S court system. This is because there are many instances where the court has made unbiased decisions for defendants. The system has also made other decisions preventing black people from being discriminated. However, the article emphasizes on the weaker side of the system. Although this is good to ensure that bad elements in the system are addressed, the author should have included some positive aspects of the system. Such an article suggests that the author could be against the government and seeks revenge by destroying the reputation of one of its functions (Swanson, 2015). It is probable also that the author was only promoting the book of Benforado through the article for personal interest and had no real intentions to understand what happens in the US court system or to the people living in the U.S.
After the 14th Amendment granted black people citizenship, the white supremacists in Florida passed a law that prevented ex-felons in the state from voting. Through activists such as ex-felon Meade, a constitutional amendment will restore the voting rights of the Florida voters who are former felons. In addition, the judge from the U.S District Walker ruled that preventing felons from participating in the voting process is unconstitutional. Walker ruled that the legal system was violating the 4th and 14th Constitution Amendments. The judge however, did uphold the right of the state to restrict felons’ voting rights but ruled out the method used in Florida. To regain voting right in Florida one has to file a petition. Then the state officials decide whether a petitioner deserves the voting right again (Iannelli, 2018).
Walker ruled the method as discriminatory with a potential of being misused by politicians for example in restoring voting rights to voters from their parties. The judge proposes that the state comes up with a fair process that ex-felons can use to have their voting rights restored. Florida is one of the three states only that ban felon from voting. Walker ruled that the constitution does not allow for the violation of Bill of Rights based on notions of a governor. It is unconstitutional that partisan officials in Florida grant or deny voting rights at will in absence of any standards or guidelines (Iannelli, 2018).
I agree with the outcome of the ruling that Florida uses the unconstitutional method in denying ex-felons the right to vote. The fact that individual people have the power to grant or deny voting rights is prone to violation. The voting rights of the felons can be restricted and Florida has that right. However, in applying to regain the right, the state should develop a non-discriminatory process. There should be set guidelines and standards that will guide the process of regaining the voting rights for ex-felons in Florida (Iannelli, 2018). Governors clearly violate the Bill of Rights for hundreds of thousands of ex-felons in Florida which is unconstitutional and promotes Jim Crow like laws in this century.
The article does not answer the question on the impacts of the current system of giving governors authority to determine who regain the right to the society. The answer would be that the political officials would be able to obtain political leadership even when people of Florida don’t prefer them. By granting voting rights to ex-felons from a certain party, and denying others, they would definitely gather more votes over their competitors. In the long run, Florida would not develop for having corrupt leaders. Voting for the right leader associated with development (Iannelli, 2018). On the other hand, having corrupt people in leadership is associated with slow development.
The article is presented in a fair manner. The author starts by identifying a law in Florida that prevents ex-felons to vote. It is clear that the law was not passed with good intentions as it was fuelled by anger after the blacks were granted citizenship. The fact that the process of regaining voting rights is unconstitutional proves that there is a problem that needs to be addressed (Iannelli, 2018). The US court system needs to establish set standards that will guide the process of fairness. The author notes that Florida still has the right to restrict voting rights for felons and that what is necessary to establish a fair process that does not give individuals power to decide who to grant or deny voting right. It is clear that Florida laws violate the Bill of Rights demanding an action hence the article being presented in a fair manner.