The Criminal Justice System
The Criminal Justice System
Webster’s Dictionary defines social construct as, “a social mechanism, phenomenon, or category created and developed by society; a perception of an individual, group, or idea that is ‘constructed’ through cultural or social practice. ” (About. com, 2009, p. 1) It would be similar to cliques in high school: jocks, brains, misfits, and cheerleaders would all interact within their own group and rarely interact outside of said groups. Prosecutors are seen as those fighting for the crime victims. Their duty is putting bad people in jail for extended periods of time.
They must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendants were not the victims but were in fact, the reasons behind the misfortunes of others. People see them on television shows such as “Law & Order” as being tough, resourceful and always fighting for their side. They battle for what their victims believe is right. Mythmaking is the art of creating an illusion or a set of circumstances that favor the prosecution’s point of view. It’s the “perception-versus-reality” battle that prosecutors and defense attorneys wage against each other to secure the best trial jury. Minick, 2000, p. 5)
This is where stereotypes come into play because someone who might look like one type of person may actually be someone totally different. Someone who is well dressed may appear to have Conservative values but could really have a Liberal bias. A potential juror who is perceived to be affluent may actually be a miser. The adage, “Looks can be deceiving” is most appropriate. A perfect example: When President Richard Nixon went to appoint a new U. S. Supreme Court Justice, he wanted someone that shared his Conservative views.
He chose Harry Blackmun to the nation’s highest Court only to find out after his nomination that he was a Liberal who eventually wrote the majority decision regarding Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion in this country. (Quindlen, 2008, p. 1) That is what happens when the subject comes unprepared. Criminal Justice 4 Everyone has an opinion regarding a given subject. There is the perception of what a group is or does and the reality. For example, there may be a perception that defense lawyers are out to free suspected killers, rapists and other bad people.
The reality is they are fighting for the truth for their client, just as prosecutors are doing for their client. There is a perception that inner city crime is high because minority groups live in these areas. Also, the media portrays crime in a way that hits major cities more often than in the suburbs where the more affluent reside. According to www. crimereports. com, that is not the case. Citing a recent study, several major cities experienced a drop in crimes in their cities.
This was information that went unreported in the media (No author, 2009, p. ) Places ranging from New York City to San Francisco reported lower crime rates in their areas. Further, there is no information getting out to the media outlets to change the perception that police officers are doing their jobs better through community policing and other tactics. (No author, 2009, p. 1) The news media is not doing the law enforcement community any favors by leading with bad news (fires, deaths, robberies, etc. ) It makes their jobs tougher in their eyes and also makes the public more wary of what they are doing on the streets.
That said, prosecutors are looking for the fact to a given case. They are colorblind in their pursuit of justice, they want the truth to come out for their client and hope the opposition falters in their quest for justice. Minorities may feel as though they are getting a raw deal, but they are often getting a fair trial with competent representation. The question is who do we punish and how? It becomes difficult to answer because every case differs from the next. There are at least two sides to every story and the circumstances of Criminal Justice 5 each case diverges with each plaintiff and defendant.
Each case is tried on its merits and a verdict is determined by either a judge or a jury based on the evidence presented. One theory that prosecutors can use in their cases can be the perception of criminals to not getting caught. Lance Lochner examines this phenomenon during his research of males and crime. His research found that males who committed crimes and were not arrested by police were more likely to continue this behavior. (Lochner, 2003, p. 1) He believes the offender’s intent is to circumvent the system and snub law enforcement to gain an advantage.
Figuring they would not get picked up by the cops adds to the allure of crime. (Lochner, 2003, p. 1) As prosecutors, this information can be used to set up the argument the defendants in these types of cases know right from wrong and chose to do the wrong thing. Committing crimes to these defendants, and is a thrill to them and it does not matter if someone gets hurt in the process. Their indifference to the law would make them candidates to carry out more crimes—possibly more serious than what they were currently doing. Winning convictions to such groups that engage in this type of behavior would help combat this issue.
It would tell them that what they are doing will not be tolerated by law enforcement or the neighborhoods that are negatively affected by the acts of cowardice. Show them that their action carry consequences when they are apprehended. Perhaps then the message will be received. There is a grey area when it comes to the realities of the criminal justice system. If one looks at the media, one would see a rise in crime. The police are not doing enough to bring criminals to justice. We know this is not the case because crime is down in most major cities.
If someone views television shows ranging from “Perry Mason” in the 1960s to the aforementioned Criminal Justice 6 “Law and Order” today, then you would see a range of jury conclusions. In the former show, the prosecutor would get his conviction by making the defendant break down during testimony. In the other case, facts are presented and the jury can rule either way (and has acquitted defendants from time to time on the show). Prosecutors have a tough job ensuring that justice is served. People are going to think what they see on television, hear on the radio and/or read in the newspapers and on-line that is the truth.
The problem is that may not always be the case. People have their own experiences from which to draw upon that shape their perceptions and realities. Someone living in the inner cities who have witnessed drug deals and drive-by shootings will have a different reality than someone who has lives in the countryside. While it would be possible for someone to have a realistic view of the criminal justice system, it is unlikely for that to happen based on the information disseminated daily. The characteristics of a set group are based on the factors within the given environment.
People who are like-minded (have the same social views); have the same working background, ethnicity and heritage are going to cling together. Witness they will have a collective opinion on a subject that often does not dissipate from the group. Take the O. J. Simpson case. It was media circus that ran across social, economic and racial lines. Everyone had an opinion whether the former football star murdered his ex wife and male friend in their Brentwood, CA home. Gregg Barak of Eastern Michigan University said every issue was dissected during the trial and had Americans riveted to the court proceedings. Barak, 2000, p. 1) Barak said more African-American males were convinced Simpson was innocent of the Criminal Justice 7 charges than white males. Conversely, White women, including the two on the Simpson jury, believed the defendant was guilty of the crimes. (Barak, 2000, p. 1) Barak said that finding did not surprise him since Simpson, an African-American, supposedly killed his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson, a White woman. What was determined to be interesting to Barak was the perception of people during the case.
He said that people’s attitudes toward Simpson and the trial were consistent throughout and many people’s opinions about him and the murder trial went virtually unchanged. (Barak, 2000, p. 1) In other words, if people thought Simpson committed the murders, than that conclusion was not swayed during or after the trial. Once an opinion was formed by someone, it stayed that way. Prosecutors in that case, Christopher Darden and Marcia Clark, faced a defendant who had financial means and the ability to sway a jury. (Barak, 2000, p. 1) Simpson was well-known as a football, player, advertising pitchman, commentator and actor.
Most defendants are not as versed as Simpson was and would have survived the media attention this trial generated. The prosecution was not airtight in its case and ultimately lost to the defendant with the large bankroll and means to get out of being criminally responsible for two murders. The work is never done in the prosecutor’s office. Every day these people go above and beyond the scope of their jobs to bring people to justice. They are a cog in the machine that enables them to do exactly that job. It is their hope that the streets and the neighborhoods in this country are safer every day.
Subject: Criminal justice,
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 17 October 2016
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