23627, RE: who's responsible?|
Posted by janey, Fri Jul-21-00 10:57 AM
Part of the problem stems from the nature of private conflict resolution in this country. Because we work within a system that allocates the responsibility/cost through an adversarial process (i.e., you sue someone to get them to accept their share of the responsibility of a problem), we have institutionalized the necessity of blaming others. I'll argue that it's all your fault; you'll argue that it's all my fault, and the jury listens to our arguments and apportions blame/cost according to who they believe. So no one is ever ever going to say, "Whoops, my bad!" when there's a possibility that (1) if they deny responsibility, someone else will pay them some money, and (2) if they accept any responsibility, they might be apportioned all of it.
It's really problematic, and the civil and criminal justice system as a whole is extremely problematic, but there are also benefits to an adversarial system. I can't decide whether or how it needs to be changed. The way it's set up, that is. There are some pretty obvious flaws in the way that the criminal justice system is in fact operated -- but unclear whether that's the fault of the structure or the fault of the administration of the system.
RIGHTS OF THE ACCUSED
There's a link in many people's minds between police action and guilt. People seriously believe that if someone is arrested, it's more than likely that they did something wrong. Potential jurors get asked all the time whether this is their opinion because it's so prevalent.
It's important that we see each violation of any person's rights as being a threat to every person. I don't care whether a prisoner who is beaten by the police was or was not a mass f***ing murderer, every police beating threatens MY personal safety. If I stand back and say, "Oh, that guy they accused, and beat, and fabricated evidence about -- he's just a violent criminal, I don't care about his rights," then when the police come for me, accuse me, beat me and fabricate evidence about me, then that is exactly what everyone will be saying about me.
None of us wants this outcome. Don't ask yourself whether this treatment is appropriate for murderers. Ask yourself whether it is appropriate for the wrongly accused, the innocent. Because that's the test that matters. And if the answer is "No, we should not beat innocent people," then we have to do everything in our power to stop the beating of the worst criminal.