Every action or decision we make is either justifiable or unjustifiable.
Justice is usually decided by society or the "norm." The "norm" changes from
one society to another. However, there are always laws that can be broken,
consequences that must follow, and punishment that must be imparted. Justice
can be seen in two different ways, social and criminal. Justice is in the eye
of the beholder because we all have different attitudes about right and wrong.
Criminal justice is a term that refers to the area of social laws which
a group of people deem valuable in order for the day-to-day mechanics of society
to function. When these laws are broken, the infrastructure of a society breaks
down, and this deviance from the "norm" must be corrected. Personal feelings,
morality, religious beliefs, and inflammatory, biased feelings towards certain
laws cannot supersede the concrete social laws. This type of high emotion was
apparent when dealing with the facts in the murder of a Topeka police officer.
In the recent trial Steven Shively was prosecuted for shooting a police officer.
The prosecutor was caught up in the media and emotional hype of this case. She
apparently thought that she could win simply because a police officer was shot
and the public was behind her. It was a case of public revenge where the mind-
set was "We're going to get the guy that did this horrible crime. It doesn't
matter that he was defending his home." This type of public revenge could
include the execution of Shively. No matter what verdict would have been
handed-down, someone, somewhere would have been unsatisfied. If Shively were
sentenced to be executed, then his family and friends would have had to fight
for justice until the day he died. As the verdict of "not guilty" arrived,
Paterson's family, many police officers, and friends of the family cried for
justice. Yet, justice had been served.
Equal and satisfying justice has always been a problem. On May 30, 1939
a group of Texas Rangers decided to ambush and murder two people they wanted
to destroy. They shot seventy five bullets into a man named Clyde and fifty
four deadly bullets into a young lady named Bonnie. Of course, this is the
famous story of the outlaw couple, Bonnie and Clyde. This action branched
across the guaranteed right to due process. Another incident of the criminal
justice's injustices occurred when the ATF decided to arrest David Koresh and
his followers. We know how this story ends. The ATF was the reason that many
people died and was probably the cause of the Oklahoma City bombing.
A more recent incident is one that was taped by a helicopter. A group
of illegal Mexican immigrants were trying to get to the land of freedom and
justice for all. After arriving they were hunted down by the border patrol in
California. After the border patrol caught them they beat them up. This group
of Mexicans were beat up for attempting to find liberty, homes, and food. We
live in a country where we can send money to other countries but spit on the
people that live in the United States of America.
Justice can also be defined in another form, social justice. When I
give someone money, I expect to get a product or service of balanced worth back.
When we are complaining about the price of gas, in our mind we are complaining
that the price is unjust or unfair. However, public opinion can warrant an
outcry for social justice so that gas prices may come down. Social justice laws
are those society values that we as a society determine are right or wrong but
that work within the framework of public law. When Abraham Lincoln said that
"all men were created equally," he was talking about social justice. Social
justice is usually someone's feelings or actions toward another person. A
social injustice was played out in Topeka with the case of Brown vs. the Topeka
Board of Education. Racism is an unjustified feeling toward a certain race
because of the color of their skin. Just the same there are many people who are
spit on for being HIV positive when they might not have had a choice in the
matter. A 86 year old woman was recently discussed on the news because she was
infected with HIV from a skin graft. Still people like Fred Phelps will freely
picket people who are innocent.
Thomas Aquinas said, "Justice is a certain rectitude of mind, whereby a
man does what he ought to do in the circumstances confronting him. Do we impart
such rectitude of mind? And if we do no, will there be tolerable private or
public order in the twenty-first century?"