Re: OJ Simpson and the Question of Blaming...

Kenneth Gauck (C558382@MIZZOU1.BITNET)
Thu, 7 Jul 1994 11:23:15 CDT

On 6 July, John Steele wrote:

>I'm not sure this is unique to the US but it is one of the great things
>that seperated us from the British system of "justice". The auguments
>about how someone is accused are firmed rooted in the belief that it is
>better to let someone get away with a crime than to let the government
>abuse the rights of the governed. That's the way it should be.

Stated this way "abuse the rights" everyone must agree. But some legal
systems, and "the court of public opinion", make provisions for those
who are suspected of guilt, but guilt cannot be proved to the satisfaction
of the legal system. In our system this is the function of the jury, which
could excecise judgements a panel of judges would not. Beloved members of
the community (such as O.J. perhaps) are aquited, while hated community
members are convicted. Additionally there is the legal tradition (though
not hallowed in this country) that the murder of a public nuisance brought
aquital or conviction of a far lessor charge.

Other kinds of lessor justice have included ostracism, shunning, sanctioned
sabotage. These could be conducted by those who accepted the courts as
legal, but in error. Cases where the public judged the courts as having
failed have resulted in lynching, feuding, or rioting. The Rodney King
verdict riots in L.A. can be seen as an example of the latter.

While we may want the government (especially in a society with a strong,
central government) to strcitly adhear to rules, that does not mean that
we always wany the courts to be the last word in the matter, despite the
fact that such a principle is required in for an effective legal system.
Many posts have expressed a concern with the fact that the courts may not
do the best thing for the community because of rules which protect some
smaller part of the community (usually the accused, but in an abstract way
everyone). While the law will never sanction extra-legal punishments
beyond a very low threshold, their contined existance is a testament to
the public's need for them, however dangerous that is to civil society.

Kenneth Gauck