John Anderson would like to start a conversation about the meaning of justice as it relates to stories in the news today.
There have been several high profile cases that have generated public outrage. There was the Rolling Stone article that recounted a gang rape at UVA titled “A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA” There were the killing of unarmed black men by police in Ferguson and New York. We saw the aftermath of the decisions not to prosecute. The Fraternity was vandalized. There were several protests of the police killing and one person may have been motivated by that to kill two police officers. There have been additional threats since.
There is a lesser known case out of England, the case of Eleanor de Freitas who accused a man of rape. The police found insufficient evidence to charge him, however, the accused launched a private prosecution of de Freitas for perverting the course of justice (filing a false rape accusation) and spent up to £200,000 attempting to prove it.
What do these stories have in common? They all call into question our concept of justice. What does justice look like? Do we accept the findings of police like some believe should have happened in the de Freitas case?
Do we accept the findings of a court like in the Michael Brown or Eric Garner cases? When do we accept that justice has been done and what limits are we willing to put on ensuring it? Is vandalizing a fraternity house enough? Should we even consider collective punishment justice?
What about a private prosecution? If a prosecutor won’t bring us justice, why shouldn’t citizens be able to prosecute? The accused still gets due process. Yet, couldn’t the concept of a private prosecution be used by the rich to intimidate the poor?
Photo: Flickr: Joie De Cleve