“The rule of law” works only if it is followed by everyone involved in the process, and in far too many cases–and they do include some white defendants (check the Innocence Project if you don’t believe that)–it is not.

Police, prosecutors, AND defense attorneys can be influenced by their own personal bias, can even let it dictate their entire approach. Some police look for the “obvious” (to them) answer, and no further. Some prosecutors want wins, not truth, justice, or fair trials. All defense attorneys want wins–which is their job, after all–but some are willing to smear victims or witnesses, even unfairly or inaccurately, to get the win.

And even if everyone has good intentions, there are some people in those fields who are honest and decent, but not competent to do the job properly. Not to mention, there is the issue of money–budget cuts for police and prosecutors, lack of resources to hire a great defense attorney. Many factors conspire against the process.

But the fact is that the rule of law, even perfectly applied rule of law, CANNOT protect the most basic right, to keep one’s life. Law cannot stop someone from violating another’s right to live. Law certainly deters some potential murderers, because they fear the punishment. But if someone wants to kill another, law cannot stop them. The best law can do, the absolute best, is catch, fairly convict, and appropriately punish the killer. That may (or may not) bring some closure to the survivors. It may feel like “justice.”

But it does nothing, nothing at all, about the violation of the murdered person’s right to live. The only thing that can address that is to stop the killing before it happens. That requires not law, but human change–change in society’s values, change in culture, change in the humans themselves. If we want to stop the violation of the right to live, we must stop people from doing the killing, not punish them after.

(Also published on Facebook and LiveJournal)

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