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Friday, June 21, 2024
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There is a limit to how much rich people can get away with legally

Zachary Andrews gives his thoughts on fairness of U.S. judicial system

I was having a debate with a friend on whether rich people get special treatment in the judicial system. My friend argued that rich people usually get away with crimes because they are able to hire the best lawyers, and I argued that there is a limit to how much even the best lawyer can provide.

A good lawyer can prevent the most damning evidence from being admitted in court, keep jurors who are inclined to guilty verdicts from ever being admitted into court and put emphasis on the mental state of the defendant, but there is a limit to how successful a defense can be. If a person shoots someone in cold blood after premeditating it, that is first-degree murder, but a good lawyer can convey to jurors that the murder was not premeditated, which would make the offense second-degree murder, yet that still means the defendant is going to prison for a very long time (possibly life).

Jurors have minds of their own. They are supposed to rely solely on the evidence that is presented before them, but if there is incriminating evidence that is barred from the courtroom a criminal could be wrongly evaluated or there could be a hung jury if evidence is controversial. In federal criminal cases, as well as many states, in order to impose a death sentence the judge needs a recommendation from the jury. A good lawyer might be able to bestow enough pity upon the jury, so they will spare the life of the defendant, but that means the defendant would receive life without parole, since it is the only other option for capital offenses.

Jurors are always mandated by the judge to follow their instructions to apply the evidence to the law in order to reach a verdict. To render a guilty or not guilty verdict, every single juror must agree on the charge. This means the process of trying the defendant may legally start again with a new jury or just the judge. If most of the jurors do not believe that the defendant is innocent, and that there is barred evidence from the courtroom, at least one of them will likely vote to convict.

There have been a few notable cases in which rich people have gotten away with severe violent offenses but the acquittals were due to extenuating circumstances. In 1995 OJ Simpson was acquitted of murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her lover Ronald Goldman. From what I noticed, the acquittal had less to do with the multi-million dollar dream team, and had more to do with the social circumstances that surrounded Los Angeles at the time of the trial. There was the recent case in Texas with the “Affluenza” kid, but there is, obviously, more to the story, and the media is merely telling that part of the story in order to rile up people’s animosity towards those with money. The media reported that a kid in Texas was acquitted for killing four people while driving drunk, because they found that he did not know better, since he had always been spoiled by his parents.

Over the last 20 years, there have been dozens of cases in which rich people have committed murder and spent millions of dollars on a defense, but still ended up being convicted. Examples include Phil Spector, Michael Skakel, The Menendez Brothers, C-Murder and plenty of less well-known cases. Due to the fact that the chief prosecutor/district attorney is usually elected (CGA,) he will make a full ditch effort to get wealthy defendants convicted, in order to garner more votes when it is time for the next election.

I am not saying that money doesn’t buy you benefits in a trial; I am merely saying there is a limit as to how far money goes in terms of buying freedom. As I said before, the decision whether to convict someone is up to 12 individuals, and if a person is evidently guilty it is hard to convey a defense that is powerful enough to manipulate jurors.

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As the semester comes to an end and one of the founding members leaves American University, Section 202 has decided to take a trip down memory lane. For our fans, old and new, who are wondering how Section 202 came to be, this episode is a must. Listen along as hosts Connor Sturniolo and Liah Argiropoulos reminisce about the beginning of Section 202 and how it got to where it is now.


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