Legal system that treats people fairly and equally

In your own words (but using proper grammar), in  four full and complete pages, analyze and address the following:

 

In Texas, the goal of a legal system that treats people fairly and equally and guarantees that justice will prevail is monumental. The overwhelming nature of fulfilling such a challenge weighs heavily on even the day-to-day operations of police departments, the District Attorneys and his or her assistant prosecutors, and the judges who preside over the civil and criminal cases that come before them.  Meeting these challenges is especially difficult in Texas because of the state’s unique social and political cultures and their interaction with broader social transformations in the state.

 

Since the latter half of the Nineteenth Century, Texans have been committed to ensuring that the state legal system be shaped using a mechanism frequently associated with both democratic and republican government— i.e., voting. In that context, district attorneys, county attorneys, sheriffs, and judges have been elected officials within the legal system. For Texas candidates seeking to be elected to be sheriffs, prosecutors, and judges, effective campaign pledges to the voting public have typically promised a “get tough on crime” agenda. Once elected, officials who made such a promise, and who desire to be re-elected in the future, presumably believe they are duty-bound to fulfill the “get tough on crime” pledge.

 

In the past, the “get tough on crime” agenda has realistically meant rigorous law enforcement and prosecution of racial minorities, especially in the Texas urban communities. Does that mean “justice” was served? The law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and judges who were the active participants in the system that resulted in the large majority of inmates in the Texas prison system being poor minority males would likely say that justice did prevail. But, of course, that doesn’t mean it is so.

 

Minority Texans and non-minority, middle class Texans have from time to time found themselves a “victim” to an elected prosecutor who has been successful (in getting elected and re-elected) with the win-at-all costs prosecution of criminal defendants. Read about the Michael Morton case at https://www.innocenceproject.org/cases/michael-morton/ . Mr. Moore was unfairly prosecuted and ultimately wound up serving 24 years for murdering his wife — as it turns out, a crime that he did not commit. The prosecutor committed such illegal actions in trying Mr. Morton that he resigned from the State Bar of Texas and from a district judgeship to which he had subsequently been elected, and in November 2013, the former prosecutor and state district judge entered a plea to criminal contempt and agreed to serve a 10-day jail sentence.

 

The wrongful  arrests and imprisonment of individuals for crimes they didn’t commit has been a special burden on both those individuals who were wrongfully treated by the state and the state itself in it having to pay compensation to them as a sort of reimbursement for those years they lost in prison.  Read: https://www.texastribune.org/2017/09/20/texas-lawmakers-hope-prevent-wrongful-convictions/ and https://www.texastribune.org/2016/06/24/wrongful-convictions-cost-texans-over-93-million/, a 2016 article that described the amount paid out by then. It has grown as more prisoners have been released after proof was provided to the state establishing their innocence and the unfair prosecution and conviction they suffered.

 

Read whether the Texas legal system treats people fairly and equally and guarantee that justice will prevail? Read https://www.mysanantonio.com/opinion/commentary/article/Texas-still-has-a-ways-to-go-for-fair-justice-4944069.php — entitled “Texas still has a ways to go for Fair Justice”, a 2013 article for the San Antonio Express-News newspaper by former State Senator Rodney Ellis, Democrat-Houston, who chaired the board of directors for the Innocence Project in 2013. In 2017, Rodney Ellis was elected to be a county commissioner in Harris County (Houston), Texas. 

 

No human being is perfect, of course. Therefore, no system designed by humans can be perfect. And perhaps no system has more human parts than the criminal justice system. We might think that a criminal case is about a search for truth. In reality, it is not about truth. It is about evidence. And more specifically, it is only about the evidence that is presented in the courtroom. Sometimes incorrect or inaccurate evidence pointing to guilt is presented at trial. And sometimes correct and accurate evidence pointing to innocence is not known at the time of the trial and therefore not presented at trial. In the end, mistakes happen. But there also are corrupt police, prosecutors and judges who are supposed to make the system work fairly so that justice will prevail but who don’t. When that occurs an individual winds up unfairly convicted and imprisoned.

 

Are there Texas prison inmates who are innocent of the crimes for which they were arrested, prosecuted, and convicted? Sure. Perhaps as much as ten percent of the Texas prison population was convicted of felony crimes they did not commit.

 

After you have completed the readings mentioned above, answer the following questions by providing your educated opinion and discussion:

 

(1) Do you think Texas police officers, prosecutors or judges who have participated in such wrongful arrests and prosecutions should be subject to being incarcerated for no less than six months in county jail or perhaps even one to two years in state prison — if their participation in such wrongful arrests and prosecutions was proven to be knowing and intentional?

 

(2) Should those Texas police officers, prosecutors or judges who have participated in such wrongful arrests and prosecutions automatically lose their property and money in a civil lawsuit to that individual where it is proven that the wrongful arrest and conviction was knowing and intentional? In such a circumstance, should the state of Texas also be subjected to having to compensate the individual wrongfully arrested and convicted at the rate of $3 million dollars (or more) for every year lost by the individual to imprisonment?

 

(3) Are there alternatives that could be used rather than electing District and County Attorneys and judges in Texas that might insure that corrupt prosecutors and judges don’t get elected? By that I mean, are there other methods used to fill such positions of authority in other states? Read https://ballotpedia.org/Nonpartisan_election_of_judges  before you try to address this question.

 

(4) Even if an alternative is selected by Texas voters as an amendment to the Texas Constitution, would such an alternative guarantee that the prosecutorial and judicial officials would be honest and do their work with integrity? In your discussion, provide a few examples of when a judge, District Attorney, or sheriff in South Texas was prosecuted, convicted, and imprisoned.  Read: https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/public-corruption-courtroom-for-sale1. Also, read: https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdtx/pr/former-south-texas-police-officer-gets-14-years-participation-drug-smuggling-conspiracy. Also, read: https://www.caller.com/story/news/crime/2019/09/26/former-south-texas-justice-sentenced-5-years-prison-bribery/2446544001/. Also, read: https://www.tdcaa.com/journal/public-corruption-in-the-valley/.

 

(5) Is the problem one of human nature? That is, is it inevitable — regardless of the legal system used in Texas — that some prosecutors, some judges, and some law enforcement officers will be dishonest and corrupt and will not provide all Texans with fair and just treatment?

 

Make sure you mention the Michael Morton case and your opinion of what happened in that case regarding the failure of justice in the prosecution of Mr. Morton and the corruption of District Attorney Ken Anderson. Read the 2006 Texas Monthly article “The Bad Guy With the Badge” at https://www.texasmonthly.com/articles/the-bad-guy-with-the-badge/ before you answer this question. Also, read “Jail Time May Be the Least of Ken Anderson’s Problems”, a 2013 brief article in Texas Monthly at https://www.texasmonthly.com/articles/jail-time-may-be-the-least-of-ken-andersons-problems/

 

Before you start writing your essay, first do readings regarding the subject matter to educate yourself about what you need to write. I want your opinion, but I want your educated opinion — not some seat-of-the-pants comments by you, based on nothing more than your own biases or prejudices. If you don’t read the articles and instead you submit an essay filled with nothing more than your guesses, “feelings”, and prejudices, the grade you will receive for such an essay will be devastating for your course grade. I want you to engage in critical thinking and critical writing. If you are unsure about your writing ability, you might want to make use of the services available at the UTRGV Writing Center.

 

Your essay should be no less than four (4) full pages long. Although your essay must be at least four (4) full pages, please do not submit more than 5 pages. Do not provide citations to any sources that you may have read to develop your thinking regarding the issues mentioned above.  I want your essay to be composed of your own original, critical thinking — not a recitation of what others have said.