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News Maryland Harford County Bel Air

Faith in justice system key to social order [Editorial]

Justice is meant to be a deliberative and thoughtful undertaking in which cooler heads prevail and reason triumphs over passion.

Thus, the court systems in this country move at a pace that can be painfully slow, and it allows for a nearly unending number of appeals, reviews and requests for new trials.

While the system may not work at a pace that suits a world where everything is available at the click of a mouse, as long as it works over the long haul, the public can have confidence justice is being served.

The courts, however, sometimes work in ways that appear to undermine public confidence in the notion that justice is being served. Nationally, the George Zimmerman trial verdict in Florida seems to have had that effect on a segment of the population, though it's likely a verdict in the other direction would have had the same effect on a different side of the population. Such is the nature of trials in which large segments of society pick sides and root for a victory.

Possibly more long-term damage results, however, when the courts make rulings like a recent series in Maryland that have resulted in the vacating of convictions in murder cases.

It's important to note here that there are good reasons why the court system allows for so many opportunities for post-conviction review. It is fair, after all, that if new evidence comes to light that shows someone was convicted of something they didn't do, to set things right. It's also important to make sure the state, in the form of the prosecution, doesn't use its massive resources to try to railroad the justice system.

That said, the judicial system needs to be a good deal more careful than it often is in making decisions that are based not on evidence, but rather on changes in procedures and processes that occur over a span of years.

The cumulative effect of recent decisions has yet to play out. It will take a long time for that to happen. The courts, however, need to be aware of the reality that if decisions are made in a way that causes the public to lose confidence in the system, the fabric of American society can be irreparably damaged.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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