Tuesday, May 17, 2011

An eye for an eye

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but [rather] give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance [is] mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. -- Romans 12:19
Hand a prosecutor an affidavit of non-prosecution from the complaining witness in a domestic assault case and you will likely be told that the DA has to prosecute those cases, regardless of whether the complaining witness wishes to cooperate or not. After all it's the State of Texas versus your client.

Ask a prosecutor to consider probation in a violent felony case and you will likely be told that the DA must run it by the complaining witness before agreeing.

It's the state's way of having its cake and eating it, too.

Truth be told, the criminal (in)justice system doesn't need complaining witnesses, or their families, involved in the adjudication of a criminal offense. What we need are advocates on both sides who are able to distance themselves from the persons and events involved. While empathy is necessary, pandering is not.

Scott Greenfield wrote about the perils of a defense attorney getting too close to a client. There's also a danger when a prosecutor gets too close to a complaining witness. The closer you get to the parties involved, the more perspective you lose.

Nowhere is that lack of perspective any more focused than in Iran where a court has ordered that a man convicted of blinding a woman be blinded himself. Majid Movahedi hurled acid into the face of Ameneh Bahrami after she spurned his proposal of marriage. Mr. Movahedi was convicted in 2009 and the court ordered that he be blinded as his punishment.

Ms. Bahrami asked that she be allowed to carry out the actual procedure in which five drops of sulfuric acid will be placed into each eye.

As anyone who has ever practiced law or been a party to a lawsuit knows, the justice system (whether it be civil or criminal) cannot undo a wrong. The best a court can do is compensate the victim of a wrong in civil court or punish the person convicted of committing a crime in criminal court. No matter how much money a court may award, and no matter the sentence meted out, the underlying act happened - and nothing will change that.

Award a family a million dollars for the loss of their child in a car wreck caused by the negligence of another driver and the child is still dead.

Sentence a man to death for the murder of someone's loved one and the loved one is still dead.

Order a man blinded for blinding a woman and she will still be blind.

These are the realities that we deal with on a daily basis. The folks involved in the litigation are emotionally invested and tend to have their judgment clouded one way or the other. The attorneys involved must be able to detach themselves from the emotional side of the equation in order to resolve the matter.

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