Justice and the Rule of Law

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by Iscariot, Apr 9, 2009.

  1. Iscariot macrumors 68030

    Iscariot

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    #1
    So a convicted rapist was recently shot in both legs by vigilantes before he faced sentencing [thread], which raises some moral questions about whether or not justice and the rule of law are always congruent, or whether sometimes justice (real or perceived) should stand outside of the rule of law. However, with a case of vigilantism, it's a lot easier to maintain that the rule of law should trump justice. So I'd like to frame the discussion based on a true story that removes that variable.

    Fifteen years ago, a girl was raped on her 19th birthday. The individual who raped her had been her friend, and was driving her home. His place was on the way, and he said he needed to pick up something, so she went with him and he proceeded to force himself upon her. Charges were never pressed [reasons are unimportant, but he was guilty].

    Fast forward to today. Through random chance, she encounters him at a bus stop. She confronts him in public, and he confesses, apologizes, and claims that he has spent the past five years of his life dedicated to his atonement. It's revealed (and verified) that he has spent the past five years working as a drug and alcohol addiction counselor, as well as volunteering for an organization like Men Can Stop Rape.

    Just like in the instance of the rapist getting shot in the legs, nothing is going to undo what he has done. But in both cases, some form of extralegal "justice" has been served. Assuming that the second rapist continues on this path well into the future, does his atonement have the same or greater value to society as serving a prison sentence? If no, why? If yes, are there other instances where a debt to society can be repaid outside of the legal system? And as a follow up question, should the rule of law be more malleable to best serve society on a case by case basis?
     
  2. No1451 macrumors 6502

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    #2
    Atonement doesn't matter for ****, law shouldn't be able hanging a sword over someone's head it is about protecting society from dangerous individuals.

    As for being malleable, yes definitely. Every case needs to be treated as unique and handled differently.
     
  3. leekohler macrumors G5

    leekohler

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    #3
    Very interesting. I think this is one of those topics that is never good to discuss at a party. ;)

    I think it always comes down to the details of any individual case. That's why we have judges. Obviously, the second case is very different. Also, at least in the US, I believe the statute of limitations would apply to the second case. I don't know that the woman in that case would be able to do much in criminal court after that amount of time, but I could be wrong.

    And as much as we like to fantasize about vigilante justice, it's never a good idea in reality.
     
  4. j26 macrumors 65832

    j26

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    #4
    It's a bugger of a question as the concepts of law and justice are fundamentally different things, and each is hard to define. There are many schools of thought as to what law is, whether is is a series of commands by the "sovereign", and morality doesn't enter the equation, whether morality is intrinsically entwined with law, or whether law is nothing more than judicial decisions. The development of our legal system (and yours, being rooted in common law) has grappled with this issue for centuries. Similarly with justice there are debates as to whether justice is redistributive or commutative - is it the common good, or the individual that matters more.

    To illustrate the difficulties here are some questions
    A law is passed requiring you notify the police of any Jews living in your street or face six months in prison. Is this a valid law? Are you compelled to obey it? If you are convicted of this offence, will you go to jail? Why? Should you? Why?

    My answers to these questions would be Yes. No. Yes. You broke the law. No. The law is fundanemtally immoral. To me, in this situation, my concept of justice REQUIRES that I break the law.

    I know I'm not directly answering your question here, but the point I am trying to illustrate is that law and justice are different concepts. So many people confuse them.
     
  5. iJohnHenry macrumors P6

    iJohnHenry

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    #5
    Mumble jumble.

    The locals eliminated the intermediary. Good for them.

    If you don't like it, correct the current legal system to acquiesce to the local voice.
     
  6. synth3tik macrumors 68040

    synth3tik

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    #6
    I will say that at times I have deep admiration for vigilantism. Never the less if you break the law to deliver justice, then your just a criminal.

    A vigilantly is such until they are caught, then they just a common criminal.

    I think for it to be true vigilantism, the people who's lives were affected, are to be the ones getting justice, not some random person that was pissed off by it.

    It really is a hard one, I could see many people feeling a little hypocritical when thinking about this. I do. I love seeing people get what they really deserve, but then, there is compassion for a vigilantly because they are doing "good", in the wrong way.


    A problem I do have with it is that vigilantes make it harder to get justice through the courts in some cases, in some cases leading to an acquittal.
     
  7. zap2 macrumors 604

    zap2

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    #7
    No, since you don't like it, you should be out there fixing it.
    Not supporting illegal killings

    For this example, I think it does, but person should have been jailed still(since no one could have seen this out come)

    I want a prison system where we try to help the people who committed the crime, not lock them up, then release 'em. If we do that, what's the point? We're just making them angry and having more of a reason to commit another crime.
     
  8. iJohnHenry macrumors P6

    iJohnHenry

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    #8
    I would, but the Canadian government frowns on me carrying at side-arm.

    Sorry, was someone killed?? How stupid of me!!

    Oh poop, the poor dears. Then kill the ****ers, and save them the anguish.

    Have a nice long week-end. :)
     
  9. chrmjenkins macrumors 603

    chrmjenkins

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    #9
    For the second case, I ask what is the real point of prison... to rehabilitate, or to protect society? If it's the latter, why don't we just kill all the criminals (everyone is protected and don't need prisons supported by tax dollars)?

    If it's purpose is to rehabilitate, what that guy states has obviously shown that he pursued that path without prison. So, is it still necessary? Does the woman still feel maligned? Will she not feel as though justice has been done unless he goes to prison? Do we define justice by whether or not the victims/those affected are satisfied?

    All interesting questions, and I can't say I'm sure where I fall on any of the ones I asked.
     
  10. Tomorrow macrumors 604

    Tomorrow

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    #10
    I'm sure it depends on the convicted, but you may or may not know at sentencing whether the person can be rehabilitated (example #2 in the OP's story) or not (Charles Manson). Perhaps we err on the side of caution, and say that's what the parole board is for?
     
  11. zap2 macrumors 604

    zap2

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    #11
    Well looking back violent solutions don't seem to be a great long term solution to social issues!

    Ah, my mistake...however illegal shooting of someone is something I'd support

    :rolleyes: With that attitude, is it clear you're not looking to be part of the solution
     
  12. .Andy macrumors 68030

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    #12
    I think this scenario really touches on two issues. Firstly what in fact the legal system is for, and secondly what the prison system is for.

    To me, taking individuals into custody and and removing their liberty serves a number of purposes. In this scenario first and foremost it protects society from the individual - they are no longer a threat to society if they are removed from it. It's pretty self-evident that the individual won't be able to reoffend in custody.

    Then there is the issue of punishment. I can honestly say that this is less important to me and I'm not sure if it actually is an effective deterrent to crime - I would be happy to see data on this. Presumably it would vary depending on the crime in question. As has been said I'd be surprised that in crimes such as rape that there is a deterrent effect (but would be happy to be proven wrong). Vengeance means nothing to me and I don't believe it should be the place of the legal system to sanction it.

    Rehabilitation/retraining is a big one and what I consider an important part of the prison/legal system as a whole. It should not be the case that people come out of their time in a worse state socioeconomically than when they entered - that defeats the purpose. It's only going to prolong the problem and push people into crime to have them further marginalised. They need employment prospects and skills to be able to participate in society. This would be especially relevant (but not restricted to) to those that are serving long sentences. In this scenario the individual could receive the requisite counselling to ensure (hopefully) that they didn't reoffend combined with skills to perhaps be an even more effective spokesperson/worker against such sexual assault. Thus doing a greater net-good for society. There would be little gained if the individual was gaoled and came out with no prospect of employment.

    Then there is the case of the victim. In this scenario I'm not sure that the victim will be entirely happy with the outcome. Surely they'll still have the doubt that society hasn't been protected. That if the individual raped once is it possible that they could do so again or have done so already. Even though the perpetrator could be said to have subjectively atoned for their actions is there not a greater good that might be served with the institutionalisation of this individual? At least from a counselling and mental health point of view to ensure that such actions aren't repeated again. Has the individual actually learned anything from their position as a volunteer or is it more to salve their own guilt/put on a front to protect themselves from ramification? Instead of volunteering would a cash donation that did equivalent "good" be satisfactory?

    It's a difficult scenario indeed. And well beyond my capabilities...
     
  13. imac/cheese macrumors 6502a

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    #13
    Excellent post. It pretty much says exactly what I was going to add (except for the Austrailian spelling of jailed).
     
  14. SilentPanda Moderator emeritus

    SilentPanda

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    #14
    If I were a crazy person, couldn't I just monitor court cases for those people that I thought nobody would mind if I did some personal justice with and go about that? I don't think that would be very good. You hear random cases of vigilante justice and it seems well and good but what if somebody starting making a hobby of it?
     
  15. Sdashiki macrumors 68040

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    #15
    Youve just quoted a Law and Order episode. Almost word for word.
     
  16. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

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    #16
    Indeed it could be argued that war is also fundamentally immoral, and that it is only a legal fiction of convenience which allows our states to suspend the normal rules in order to enable mass murder, theft, destruction of property and denial of civil rights on a grand scale. Should we refuse to pay our taxes or fulfil other legal and civic obligations on the grounds that we would be lending our support to fundamentally immoral ends?
     
  17. j26 macrumors 65832

    j26

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    #17
    If it your honest belief, yes, and the perverse thing is that law has become so complicated that it could be legal.

    A group in Ireland (Ploughshares) attacked a US military cargo plane hangared in Shannon Airport in the West of ireland during the earlier phase of the Iraq war. They were prosecuted for criminal damage. At trial their defence was that they honestly believed they were trying to save lives in Iraq. Irish law allows the use of force to defend the lives of people. They were acquitted as it was a legal use of force.


    There was an American group in the 19th Century (I can't remember their name, and can't find the Tolstoi book where I found reference to them) who advocated to the effect that as government was fundamentally immoral, it was their moral duty to engage in civil disobedience, but as members of society they must stay within the law, and pay taxes - a sort of passive non-violent resistence that informed Tolstoi's view, and was at least part of the inspiration behind Mohandas Ghandi. That in turn provided inspiration for the campaigns of civil disobedience in the sixties.

    But I stray off topic :eek:.
     
  18. Iscariot thread starter macrumors 68030

    Iscariot

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    #18
    Seriously? Art imitates life.

    I changed some of the details to protect the victim, mind.
     
  19. 63dot macrumors 603

    63dot

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    #19
    OP, this is a common discussion among law students. On day one, we find out there is the rule of law, which keeps our society in check to a point. We also know there is justice. They are both different things.

    You do not win a case using justice, fairness, decency, or what seems right. You win on substantive issues concerning the law (in the US).

    Want to twist your mind with what written law is/was and how that conflicts with a person's notion of justice? Google the Palsgraf case or Winship case. They are the landmark judicial cases in civil law and criminal law, respectively. It's not easy reading, but will in a few hours give the reader a better understanding of the rule of law and it's strengths and weaknesses. There is probably no law school in America that leaves out these two.
     
  20. blackfox macrumors 65816

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    #20
    Iscariot, your example did not include the reaction of the victim to the scenario. I feel that this should somehow be relevant. If (in this case) she feels satisfied by her offender's subsequent actions then let the issue drop. I say this, because in this case, no charges were filed and it is strictly speaking, not a legal matter, but one of personal morality.

    I have another example for you lot. I have had to spend a few nights in jail recently, due to a DUII I received a few months back. My cell mate was a guy in his late 20's, and a soldier in Iraq. He was married before his tour, and had a 1-year old daughter.

    He returns from Iraq a couple of years later, and his wife tells him that a man they both know molested his daughter (who was 2 at the time - now 3). He tells his wife to take his daughter and herself to her mothers for a few days. He finds this guy, kidnaps him and takes him back to his house and tortures him.

    Burns him with a lighter and hairspray. Takes hammers to his knees and feet. He then calls the police and surrenders.

    The molester will never walk again. The soldier receives a 10 year sentence, which he is about 1/2 the way through when I met him last week. He is totally satisfied with what happened and his punishment, said he knew the consequences, but couldn't live with himself if he didn't do what he did. I can't really blame the guy.

    Thoughts?
     
  21. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

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    #21
    Utterly idiotic. The child will almost certainly be far more traumatised by her father's absence for the first eleven years of her life, as will he, and probably his wife, than she will be by an unspecified molestation which happened when she was too young to remember.
     
  22. .Andy macrumors 68030

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    #22
    My thoughts first and foremost is that he's let his daughter down unimaginably. Not only does she have to grow up with the knowledge that she's been sexually abused, now she has to have a childhood without her father, her adolescence with an ex-criminal, and any chance of being anonymous lost all because he was unable to control his anger. I think he behaved unbelievably selfishly with little disregard for his daughter at all.
     
  23. Iscariot thread starter macrumors 68030

    Iscariot

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    #23
    She was never in a position to have pressed charges for reasons beyond her control, so even if she does feel better about the outcome, she will still have never had that choice.

    For the record, she does indeed feel better that some good is coming of this.
     
  24. chrmjenkins macrumors 603

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    #24
    Bless her for having the strength to do that then. It can't be easy.
     
  25. skunk macrumors G4

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    #25
    Either we live under the rule of law or we do not. If we choose to live under the rule of law (isn't that one of the criteria by which we define civilisation?) then the victim's feelings are really rather irrelevant. Surely the whole point of the rule of law is that individuals and personalities are taken out of the equation. And surely the whole point, certainly the ideal, of the system of justice is not revenge but rehabilitation. If the perpetrator has taken it upon himself to rehabilitate himself so effectively, then surely the ends of the justice system have been served?
     

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