What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
photo credit: galleryquantum
When trying an individual for a crime, the government calls upon witnesses and other relevant persons to give testimony and offer the judge and/or jury compelling information to understand and judge the facts laid before them. This judicial system is intended to allow the person to face his accusers and attempt to disprove the allegations made against him, while the prosecution aims to do the opposite. The administration of justice in such a setting depends largely upon the credible depositions and evidence of those on both sides of the issue.
Leave it to the government, then, to taint this process and create a train of unintended consequences in the wake of their pursuit of justice. One of the most common ploys of the prosecution in any case is to offer a plea bargain to those being accused in exchange for information that will help them in their objective to find the accused person(s) guilty. So sacrosanct is this collusion of courtroom chicanery that few even question its commonplace existence. However, the pursuit of plea bargains is inherently unjust—resulting in the irony of using a tool of injustice in the alleged pursuit of justice.
Federal law (U.S.C. Â§ 201(c)(2)) states that:
Whoever … directly or indirectly, gives, offers, or promises anything of value to any person, for or because of the testimony under oath or affirmation given or to be given by such person as a witness upon a trial, hearing, or other proceeding, before any court, any committee of either House or both Houses of Congress, or any agency, commission, or officer authorized by the laws of the United States to hear evidence or take testimony, or for or because of such person’s absence therefrom … shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than two years, or both.
Supported by municipal and state laws almost universally, this statue expressly prohibits the promise or actual bestowal of compensation for one’s testimony as a witness. The purpose of such laws, of course, is to make it a crime to buy a witness—this in order to ensure fairness and justice during the criminal trial, so as to prevent the judicial system from being riddled with bribery and corruption.
A decade ago, a Federal appeals court ruled that this law—could it be true?—actually applied to the government as well. In their decision, they stated:
The judicial process is tainted and justice cheapened when factual testimony is purchased, whether with leniency or money. Because prosecutors bear a weighty responsibility to do justice and observe the law in the course of a prosecution, it is particularly appropriate to apply the strictures of sec. 201(c)(2) to their activities
It was not long afterward that the ruling was struck down by the entire 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, with the reason that the lower court’s ruling would "make a criminal out of nearly every federal prosecutor." And so, since the practice of plea bargaining permeates the entire justice system, its existence is protected and praised by those in the very same system. Thus is the totalitarian defense used in this case, where those in power brazenly explain why their lawlessness is not only justified, but necessary.
True justice demands that the government either honorably attempt to convict an accused individual, or release him. Muddying the judicial waters with backroom deals and incentive-induced witness testimony cheapens the entire process and turns our system of justice into anything but.