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[Tru Blu Tuesday] The Thing About Justice

Have you ever thought to yourself how wonderful the world would be if every criminal was brought to justice? I certainly have. Just imagine: would-be thieves afraid to steal, violence virtually non-existent, and even jay walking would occur quite seldom. Potential criminals would know that they would be punished for their various offenses according to the law. Sounds great doesn’t it?

Bringing every criminal to justice could almost be reality. All that would need to be done is to convict every single person suspected of and charged with a crime. That would get us very close to putting all criminals behind bars. None would slip through the cracks of the system, able to return to their evil ways once again. Just think, O.J. Simpson would have been locked up. So would George Zimmerman. Even those punk kids would finally be fined for trespassing on your lawn! Whoever was suspected of a crime, would get the time. I can smell the utopia!

Of course, it wouldn’t be all that great for the innocent people. It sure would be a bad day for them, getting punished for something they didn’t do, or did on accident. It sure would be tough for them. Actually “them” would technically become you and I since, after all, everyone would be guilty in only a matter of time. I’d imagine that under a system of automatic guilt, all it would take is for your neighbor to press charges on you for some cockamamie offense and just like that – you’re sitting in your own cell in the state penitentiary.

You see, the thing about justice is that it is not simply the application of punishment to those who break the law. It also applies to the protection of the innocent. Consider the opposite of justice: injustice. We could all agree that a criminal getting away with a crime is an injustice. But also consider that penalizing a person who did nothing wrong is equally, if not more, unjust. The application of justice is a delicate balance of integrity and fairness that must err on the side of caution – should it err at all.

As one of our founding fathers put it:

“It is more important that innocence be protected than it is that guilt be punished, for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world that they cannot all be punished. But if innocence itself is brought to the bar and condemned, perhaps to die, then the citizen will say, “whether I do good or whether I do evil is immaterial, for innocence itself is no protection,” and if such an idea as that were to take hold in the mind of the citizen that would be the end of security whatsoever.” – John Adams

Before John Adams was our second President, he was the defense attorney for the British soldiers who were charged in the Boston Massacre of 1770. While most of the colonials called for the heads of the soldiers who fired on and killed 5 Bostonians, Adams believed that even they deserved a fair trial. If you think the O.J. Simpson trial was a big deal, just imagine the heat and passion behind the proceedings in pre-Revolutionary War Boston. (Six of the eight soldiers charged were acquitted. The other two received reduced sentences.) You might say Mr. Adams is an expert on controversy.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEveryone wants justice – that is undisputed – yet so few truly understand it. Consider the feminine figure chosen to represent justice. She holds a scale in her hand – the icon of the justice system.  The scales represent how justice is fair and balanced, relying only on logic and fact, as it weighs evidence. This is because justice is not revenge. It vehemently resists emotional reactions and feelings. The lady is also blindfolded, consistent with the adage that “Justice is blind”. This is because it is to be applied equally to all persons, regardless of their ethnicity, gender, political background, social status, wealth or class. Balanced and fair; those are the most vital attributes of true justice.

While I admit that a world without crime sounds wonderful, the reality is that no such thing could be accomplished without harming the people unfairly. The appeal of an honest living in our society is only possible if there exists protection for those who pursue it. That is why it is so important to understand true justice in world with so much turbulence.

An excerpt of the definition of justice from Webster’s 1828 Dictionary:

JUST’ICE, n. [L. justitia, from justus, just.]

1. The virtue which consists in giving to every one what is his due; practical conformity to the laws and to principles of rectitude in the dealings of men with each other; honesty; integrity in commerce or mutual intercourse.

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