Murder and Injustice in a Small Town Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Murder and Injustice in a Small Town

Death sentence

Are you innocent until proven guilty?

The constitution of the U.S.A. has the provision of being treated as though one is innocent until the due process of the law takes its course and one is proven guilty or set free on absolute innocence grounds. It should be pointed out that if you committed the crime then you are guilty regardless of the conditions. However, the American citizens have the protection of the constitution from such a presumption. The presumption of innocence is one of the basic rights in the constitution, though it is not directly inscribed and only gets to the citizen through English jurisprudence and has been in that system from time immemorial till it has been considered common law (Craig Walenta, 2010). The tricky part however is the implementation of this concept at the time of the arrest to the time when the case will be finalized and judgment passed against an individual. The treatment that the suspect gets from the time he is arrested and the detention, sometimes the torture, hearings in court have more often worked towards pointing to the suspect that he is already guilty until he will be proven innocent. There have been several cases of police brutality during arrest and transportation to a detention centre and to extreme cases incidences of torture as is the case in Guantanamo Bay. If one is truly innocent at the time of arrest till the conclusion of the case in court, then there must be treatment that befits the innocent status of the person, otherwise this will only remain a say in the American system.

In the context of the Grisham's book, one can be innocent even after being proven and pronounced guilty. This negates the normal justice system that we are used to as America. This sprouts from the various incidence that he recounts of people who had false convictions and later on released after fair trial or better technology helped them to escape the death row, like the case of Williamson and Fritz.

Due process rights of defendants and why the important are for all observed during arrest search and seizure and interrogation.

The fourth amendment to the constitution of the U.S.A. is a part of the Bill of Rights which protects the citizens against irrational searches and seizures. It also provides that a judicially sanctioned warrant must be obtained before search a possible seizure, accompanied by reasonable cause for the search. The search and arrest is confined in extent to the information given to the court issuing the warrant normally by an officer of the government, who has to swear by it and therefore held accountable to the same court. However this does not hold if the person being searched does not have reasonable expectation of privacy.

Unreasonable government seizure is also entailed in the Fourth Amendment which prohibits unreasonable seizure of an individual, their homes or personal items without a warrant. It also proscribes seizure of persons which can include brief detentions. However, seizure does not occur merely because police officers questioned one in a public place, or when his freedom of movement is not denied (Samuel Dash, 2004). When an individual refuses to answer questions or listen to the officers then he cannot be seized due to that. The police officers need reasonable and very objective grounds for seizure.

There are however some instances where a search may be conducted. For instance the "stop and frisk" instances along the highways do not call for a warrant. It is provided by the court as an interpreter of the law that upon suspicion of a felony or unusual conduct, the police officer may conduct a "pat-down search" on the spot. However the officer must pint out specific tangible reason and facts prompting the search and must of necessity stick to that reason. Therefore, his questioning must focus only on the purpose of the search and the search be temporary. For instance if the police officer suspects that the person must be carrying contrabands, once he searches and questions him on the same and finds him clean, he cannot go ahead and question him on legality of his possession of the car.

What are the injustices of a system that has capital punishment?

In the U.S.A. The death penalty majorly applies to the murder convicts and some other serious capital offences. It has been ruled by the Supreme Court that capital punishment is constitutional and not a cruel and unusual punishment as provided for in the 8th and 14th amendments of the constitution (National Museum of Crime & Punishment, 2008).

Majority of the states are against the death penalty and each state has various measures that are meant to regulate the application of the penalty so that there is a prevention of possible putting to death of innocent people. This is one of the biggest undoing that makes me not support the death penalty and rather opt for life sentences.

Death sentences are not at all corrective or rehabilitative but retributive in nature, this is bearing the fact that the person, even if positively linked to the heinous crime, does not get the chance to correct his behaviors and become a better person in the society. He is condemned to face the same pain and fate as the person he killed hence retribution being the motive. Socially, retribution begets retribution and this will make most people on the death row commit crimes with the full knowledge that they are hated by the system and are going to be killed for that.

There is a possibility of the system playing racism card or even applying personal bias when it comes to death row. 48% of victims of death penalty are blacks as compared to 29% of them being Hispanics and 20% being whites. This is another trend that is worrying since the crimes committed that warrant death penalty are equally spread out and the pattern should be equally reflected on the death sentences. Incase there is a bias or racism pattern at play, it would be impossible to reverse later on when this is discovered since they shall have died anyway.

The death row also has excessive trauma that the defendant is subjected to before the day of his sentence execution. The person has to contend with the fact that he will not make it out of the prison alive and that all those he left behind will have to miss his service and company.

Death sentences are also traumatizing to the people left behind. The family members and the friends, in as much as they may be convinced that the person committed a crime worth death, no one would love to see the person he knew die in such a painful condition. In most situations, the family is never ready enough to accept the death of their loved one since this is different from accident deaths or sickness.

The death penalty also deprives the society of the first hand lessons from people who have been through a crime life and served for their wrongs and changed. Once one has been made to serve for the crimes he committed, he is likely to come back and educate the younger generation on the significance of crime avoidance since they wasted their entire life in prison due to crime. These are lessons that can keep youth away from crime yet they are gone with the killing of the person under death sentence.

Should a prosecutor be held accountable for unethical prosecutorial misconduct?

The issue of prosecutorial misconduct has been a subject of discussion for a long time in the legal fraternity. There have been instances of unethical misconduct during the jury selection and even during the opening statements and even in the progress of the cases. Some of the misconduct are merely due to the inalienable position or situation that the juror may be in like close relationship with the parties directly involved in the case, yet some are outright unethical conduct by the jurors that seeks to undermine the integrity of the cases before them or to construe the evidence to a different direction or even intentionally leave out some details/twist details to a format that suits them. Such intentional unethical misconduct when detected and proven should be treated with the seriousness they deserve and punish the concerned prosecutors since they are basically contravening the fundamental rights of the defendants to have a fair hearing and attaining justice in the court of law. The instance at hand is the prosecutor in this case who used unreliable witnesses, forced "dream" confessions as well as flimsy evidence to convict Williamson and Fritz, who received death sentences. The unethical conduct of the prosecutor made it hard for Williamson to prove his innocence and wasted a good 11 years of hislife behind bars until the DNA availability initiated by Innocence project came to his salvation.

Should the U.S. abolish the death penalty?…

Sources Used in Documents:


Craig Walenta, (2010). U.S. Constitution Online. Retrieved December 6, 2011 from

Death Penalty Information Center, (2010). Sentencing for Life: Americans Embrace Alternatives

to the Death Penalty. Retrieved December 6, 2011 from

National Museum of Crime & Punishment, (2008). Crimes Punishable By Death. Retrieved December 6, 2011, from

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