Ruling: Pocket Change, or Death Row?

The fairness of justice:

In 1993 the famous rapper, Snoop Dogg, was involved in one way or another with the Rollin 20’s Crips gang. On August 25th that year, Snoop Dogg was arrested on murder charges of a rival gang member, Philip Woldemariam. According to a Washington Post article by Sharon Waxman, “The jury appeared to have accepted the defense argument that Broadus and Lee acted in self-defense in the altercation on Aug. 25, 1993, at a Los Angeles park” (Waxman, par.7). However, Waxman also states in her news article that the victim was shot in the back and therefore could not have attacked Snoop Dogg. The evidence of this trial was one thing and then the verdict decided on was the exact opposite of what the evidence suggested. People of high social status slipping through our justice system might seem like a new problem, however, these unfair practices of law have been around since the first laws were written down.

The first laws written down were from Babylon in 1792-1750 under the rule of Hammurabi. Hammurabi’s laws are based on the stature of the victim and the perpetrator. For instance, “if he has destroyed the eye of a peasant, or broken a bone of a peasant, he shall pay one mina of silver” (Code of Hammurabi). On the other hand, “if a man strikes the body of a man who is superior in status, he shall publicly receive sixty lashes with a cowhide whip” (Code of Hammurabi). The punishments for these laws are obviously skewed in favor of the rich. One mina of silver is today’s equivalent of pocket change for compensation of breaking someone’s arm. However, if a peasant hits someone superior, the sixty lashes could be life threatening.

Today’s laws in the United States are written to be fair across the board, however, the implementation of these laws are unfair. The justice system lets perpetrators who have a decent amount of money such as Snoop Dogg literally get away with murder charges. Richer people also usually win most court cases because they can pay for better resources such as lawyers.  At the same time people less well-off have to spend years in prison for possession of drugs. This is very similar to how Hammurabi’s code was written because the rich today almost have a “get out of jail free” card while the poor take harder punishments.

On paper our justice system is pretty fair for all people of all economics and ethnic statuses. However, we are still are coddling certain groups of people and letting them off with a slap on the wrist while we lock others away for years for a lesser crime because of their social rating. I do not know how to perfect our justice system because the main problems are not the laws, but the human error in implementation of the laws. To completely fix this problem would be to rewrite our constitution and eliminate a jury of peers or the ultimate rule of the judge. The only thing that we can really do is to hold people accountable through use of the press. If we bring attention to the court system and voice our opinion, then the number of people with high social status who slip through the cracks of our legal system might start to decrease.

-Brandon Hays

Word Count: 551

  • Code of Hammurabi

2 thoughts on “Ruling: Pocket Change, or Death Row?

  1. I like your point about how celebrities and generally well-known people can receive perks like receiving an easier sentencing for a crime for simply living in the lime light. However, this is not a generalization; celebrities have also been a source for movements and high-profile crimes and have received serious punishment for their actions. Harvey Weinstein is now tied to being a sexual predator and allowed for many celebrities to vocalize their grievances with sexual assault. His cause is ongoing, but it spawned a movement for other cases within the non-famous population to be heard. I discussed in my blog the Larry Nasser case and how the justice system failed for nearly three decades. However, the #MeToo movement by Harvey Weinstein came around the time Nasser’s case was being tried and helped influence a sentencing of over 150 years in prison for his actions. Social status can alleviate justice, however, it can become a media frenzy and completely tarnish the reputation of a celebrity, which is how they receive jobs in the first place. Weinstein’s case may be on going, but he is an example of what you mentioned within your blog: “bringing attention to the court system and voicing our opinions.” Because of celebrities like Weinstein, people are feeling more comfortable coming forward and seeking justice against their sexual predators.

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  2. I invite you to consider the recent instances of college admissions bribery. These men and women are among the wealthiest in the world, offering six figure payouts to college coaches to get their kid a recruited spot on the team, and thus accepted to the school of their choosing. Of course, the perpetrators are among the “upper class” as you call them, but they are now facing indisputable evidence against them that will result in jail time. I think a major difference in this case and the one you mention is the investigation side of things. While I do not disagree with your argument that wealthier people can afford better lawyers and thus have an advantage, I think it is important to note that the system is not entirely flawed and people do pay the consequences of their actions, as demonstrated in the recent admissions scandals.

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