Letter to the Editor of the Lewis County Chronicle on the so-called justice system
by Larry Kershner
There have been recent calls to impeach President Trump for obstruction of justice. However, the whole American political and so-called justice system is itself an obstruction of justice. I recently had the pleasure of being a defendant in the federal court system. The current criminal legal system is designed not to produce what is right or just or fair. The current system criminalizes political dissent. Dissent which opposes and tries to change the dominant social order or policies of the government should be protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution.
The US criminal legal system is political, the clear intention of which is to control certain communities in order to benefit those with power. A 1999 survey by the American Bar Association found that 47% of the American public believes the legal system to be unfair, especially to minority communities.
Thirty years ago, there were 500,000 people behind bars in America. Today, there are 2.2 million. The United States with 5 percent of the world’s population, has 25 percent of the world’s prisoners and 50% of the world’s lawyers. The US has the second highest per-capita incarceration rate in the world. According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics, Black and Hispanic prisoners make up 59% of the US incarcerated population. The recent trial of the police officer who killed Philando Castile is a perfect example of the justice a person of color can expect in this country.
Anyone who has been involved with the legal system knows that the impartial color-blind delivery of justice by the courts is a myth. The function of the court system is to maintain State control and the power structure of the dominant elite. Judges and juries are not meant to provide justice but to provide social stability. In a broad sense many, if not most, criminal charges in a society that is capitalist, racist, hetero-patriarchal, transphobic and classist are essentially political.
In our case, the government and the court refused us any opportunity to explain the reasons for our action at the Bangor Nuclear Submarine Base. The government filed and the court accepted a motion in limine which prevented us from expressing the moral, ethical and legal reasons that convinced us that our action was not only legal but necessary. Since we were gagged by the court and the government despite the free speech that all Americans are entitled to, we could not receive a fair and just trial.
Court rules are so hidden and convoluted that a Gnostic priest called a lawyer is required to understand what is happening. In a jury trial the prosecutors get to speak last. Many if not most trial judges are ex-prosecutors. The supposed last arbiter of justice, the Supreme Court, only takes about 70 cases a year out of thousands and is generally unconcerned about equity and justice, looking mainly at procedural issues.
As Benjamin Franklin said “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are”.