How does the Criminal Justice System shape society?

Previous research has shown that celebrities, famous athletes, and members of the judicial system have a type of immunity when it comes to the law and punishment for wrongful actions. The law is “innocent until proven guilty” however examples from different cases show that in reality it is the opposite, that people are actually thought of as “guilty until proven innocent.” Since this law we’ve created: “guilty until proven innocent”  has been recorded case after case, we have found that those people in society that are held to higher standards and sometimes have a bit more leeway than the average American citizen. For example in the past, news on President JFK having “sexual relations” with a woman other than his wife. It was all over the media and all of America knew about it; but nothing was done. Regardless of his infidelity, we as Americans still idolized him and looked up to him as a role model. Although this is only one small example, it can still say a lot about American society. I think this example shows reflection on our society and how we admire and venerate the prominent people and kind of put them high on a pedestal even though they make just as many mistakes as the average citizen.


Picking up the Breadcrumbs

  • Criminology, psychology, sociology, political science- humanities
    • Look at these topics and how they connect to being truly free or the theory of still being guilty after being innocent
  • “In many cases state laws prevent even the publication of an accuser’s name, thus making the defender’s job to prove his innocence even more difficult.”
    • This relates to my question of evidence being enough to convict people, even if they are innocent finding proof will be hard. If they have to prevent the publication of an accuser’s name, then how is that fair for the other person. In this I question how our right to a “fair” trial is really fair.

  • First the immemorial rule that no man could be tried twice for the same crime was abrogated in the wake of the Stephen Lawrence case and the subsequent, egregious Macpherson Report, a low point in the extensive history of British official moral cowardice.

This really hits home with my question on evidence, this article talks about how you cannot be tried twice but I don’t understand why we should even have to ask for a second trial because there should be enough evidence during the first trial that the suspect should be tried correctly.

  • In the case of Stephen Lawrence, the police didn’t have evidence to being with except for a letter that someone had left in the family’s telephone box. “Enough” evidence was found to convict a suspect yet the suspect was released because of “insufficient evidence,” only to find out after 10 years the suspect was truly guilty.

  • “But Healy was never convicted of a crime. He was merely named an “unindicted co-conspirator,” with no chance to clear his name except by initiating some kind of lawsuit against the government, which has much more money to spend on lawyers than he does.

The innocence mantra has been gradually eroded by compromises such as these, but there are many more instances that could be cited.”

  • People are innocent yet they cannot clear their name from those convictions because it is hard but why?
  • How sad and how contrary to our whole judicial philosophy is the need for the accused to prove his innocence instead of the burden being placed on the prosecution to prove his guilt.

  • Powerful statement that I thought related to evidence and how this statement proves that there isn’t enough evidence to convict someone even when we think there is
  • A recurring theme in the White Paper on Crime consultation process has been the relationship between the criminal justice system and the community it serves. It is widely accepted that combating crime requires the input of ordinary citizens and communities. At the same time, the public rightly has expectations of the criminal justice system and its general capacity to protect communities and to deal with offenders. The commitment in the Programme for Government to enact legislation to strengthen the rights of victims of crime and their families is particularly relevant in this regard.

Key overall components of a fair and credible system are:

  • Effectiveness in detecting, deterring and punishing offending behavior
  • Fairness to all involved including victims, witnesses and accused
  • Efficiency in the use of time and resources
  • Transparency and prompt service delivery

Media and Awareness of Crime

  • media naturally plays an important role in shaping people’s awareness of crime and criminal justice issues
  • It is often suggested that this can distort people’s perception of crime
  • This can create the impression that the incidence of these events or the risk of becoming a victim is higher than might actually be the case
  • It is also suggested that by emphasizing and overstating some types of serious crime, crime coverage fuels punitive tendencies in the debate on crime.
  • A further criticism is that some coverage may reinforce the stigmatization of certain groups or communities.
  • It may be that modern media produces more frequent, more graphic and visual, and hence more emotive, representations of crime

  • I found this information to take me into “the rabbit hole.” At first I didn’t think this really had anything to do with our inquiry question but now I see that many things influence whether someone is judged as innocent or guilty, by the public.
  • Once charges are published and sensationalized, however, the individual is considered “guilty” by many readers and has his or her reputation tarnished. This practice also takes its toll on related family members

  • This article related very much to my inquiry question about people who are set free really being set free or do people still believe they will always be guilty.
  • “The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.”

— Malcolm X

the media give all the details of the crime in such a way that for most people there is no other conclusion than the person is guilty.

They are usually huffy about any criticism since everyone knows that when someone is arrested, they are guilty.

The jury pool is contaminated by the media framing the story from the prosecution’s point of view

Further, as some of us remember, there have been several seemingly iron-clad cases against citizens that subsequently turned out to be incorrect. What is remembered is that the person was handcuffed and perp-walked into the jail on nighttime television. It is rarely remembered that the person was really innocent.

No exculpatory evidence is mentioned

  • This article questions the influence on media and how that influences our opinions on a suspect from the start. We make judgments that affect the person for the rest of their life.
  • Call for submission on exculpatory evidence
    • Prior to this decision, several federal circuit courts3 and district courts4 recognized a duty on the part of the prosecutor to introduce exculpatory evidence

  • Exculpatory evidence seems biased in a way because if the suspect doesn’t find evidence to prove his innocence than their innocence is questionable. This doesn’t seem fair because if they are truly innocent then there probably won’t be much evidence to bring to the table, unless they have really good alibis to prove their innocence. I question this is “fair” for everyone.

Making connections within

Reading through my peers’ blogs, made me realized we are touching on a lot of the same things. I noticed that my question about once you’re set free or are you still guilty, had similar connections to Nikki’s question. We all have similar thoughts and questions that I think we could all work off of.

I found that Nikki and I both used one of the same sources. I found it interesting that she viewed that article in a different aspect from me. Using the same article made me think of questions I hadn’t thought of before and I think that really helped a lot on questioning some of the things I was questioning. I also realized that throughout my blogs, questions about first impressions was brought up, so I see a lot of connections. For most part, I see that Nikki is questioning the justice system similarly to what I have been doing. If I had to complicate her inquiry blogs, I would say that maybe for her question about impressions, she should focus on the psychology aspect of why we make first impression and why they matter. Also, I feel like her two questions relate so maybe she should look at how they connect.

Abigail used a lot of past cases which I thought was great because she not only focused on articles/ facts about the inquiry topic but went deeper into actual cases. Like Nikki and I, Abigail also questioned on the fairness of our judicial/ justice system. On one of her blogs she questions, “are we out of control or under control?” (referring to the government and the citizens), this question really struck me and made me wonder what was true. She mentioned statistics from a TedTalks video that made me wonder if the funds the judicial systems has, has anything to do with my question on evidence. I would like to see her branch off into things like the consequences of race/ religion.

Overall, I liked reflecting on my work through the work of my peers’. It helped me make connections from my inquiry to their inquiries. I can see their work helping my work grow. It also made me realize I should make deeper connections to my inquiry topics. I think that I’ve just touched the surface with these questions and that I can and should go further. All of our work has in a way interconnected with one another.

Going beyond ‘innocent until proven guilty’

As this inquiry project is proceeding, so is the amount of information about this topic. I have found different articles who are arguing that ‘innocent until proven guilty’ is in fact ‘guilty until proven innocent’ while others argue that is ‘innocent until proven guilty.’ As I’ve read articles, I realized that it is important to understand that each author has it biased information that will entice the reader to agree with their article.

The first article I found was from TedTalks, 6 talks on the phenomena behind wrongful convictions. I really liked this article because it talked about how many people have been convicted as a result of wrong “evidence.” Scott Fraser, a forensic psychologist, explains that sometimes evidence can be swayed by our own mind. The writer focuses on how convictions can be wrongful and how things should change. This article relates to my topic because being proven innocent takes much evidence and sometimes there isn’t enough evidence in your favor which causes you to be seen guilty. This article goes further into my question about evidence not being enough or how do we know what is enough evidence. While reading this article, it made me wonder how many cases had been convicted for something they didn’t commit and how much evidence it took to convict them? These questions correlate with my previous questions on how much is enough evidence. I feel like maybe I should look into how witnesses have an affect on evidence. Although I really liked this article, I did realize that the writer’s frame was only towards those who were convicted with wrongful evidence, but what about those who weren’t convicted without/with wrongful evidence?

The second article I found, from the library, that seemed very interesting to me was Debating the Precautionary Principle: “Guilty until Proven Innocent” or “Innocent until Proven Guilty”?. I thought it was very interesting because it focused on the difference between the two statements from above while relating it to plant physiology. Henk van den Belt, the author of this article, presents a question that I believe relates to my topic of evidence, “We cannot consider GMOs harmless until the absence of harmful effects is fully proven.” What I think he is saying is that without evidence being fully proven, you cannot consider someone guilty or innocent. Going back to evidence, how are we able to prove such evidence, if it’s already used against the suspect? How do we know that the evidence proves anything? The writer’s frame here focuses on how we expect more and more proof just so that we don’t convict someone who is innocent; the writer also focuses on the “inevitable trade-off involved in the design of our system of criminal justice.” This relates to my topic because evidence is something we heavily rely on to prove that someone isn’t guilty or innocent. I think for this topic we should also look at how the criminal justice has evolved/changed throughout the years. 

The third article I found that questions the presumption of innocence is Criminal Labels, the European Convention on Human Rights and the Presumption of Innocence. This article really intrigued me because the author talks about how presumption shouldn’t be applied until after the person is charged. The author states that “though a high standard of proof does not prescribe precisely how people should be treated, a primary reason for this second element of the presumption is to guard against illegitimate convictions, given that the conviction and punishment of an innocent person is deemed to cause more harm than the avoidance of liability by a guilty person,” I really like how the author points out the the proof we find about the individual shouldn’t be a way for us to write them off with whatever label. This article touches my topic on how people aren’t really free after they are set free because before the case even ends people have already judged them from the start. I found that maybe I should focus on why people are so quick to judge other people. This article really focused on the judgement of people and the how presumption of innocence should be the goal.

The final article I found was Why our justice system convicts innocent people, and the challenges faced by innocent projects trying to exonerate them. Krieger, the author, writes about the difficulties with trying to prove your innocence in our justice system. He states that we really don’t know how many people who are convicted are truly innocent or the other way around. Krieger looks into how we’ve become very reliable on DNA testing to prove innocence or guilty. He gives an example of how a man was convicted because he matched the description of the suspect, he continues to show how this case was not fair in any way shape or form. From this I question, whether our “justice system” is really on our side or are they against us from the get go? I also wonder if our justice system is truly just? This applies to my topic of evidence and how evidence isn’t fair or enough to convict someone. The writer’s frame is focused on the wrongdoing of evidence and how innocent people continue to be convicted of crimes they didn’t commit.

The complicated areas of being innocent until proven guilty

“Innocent until proven guilty” is a statement pretty much all Americans are familiar with since we’ve always been taught that. “Guilty until proven innocent” becomes much download (1)more of a norm in society today. Why aren’t we giving people the benefit of the thought nowadays? What has changed us that makes us question their “truthfulness”? Or better yet what influences our thoughts on the suspect? I think that over the years police/courts systems have changed drastically. Different things are influencing the decision of someone’s innocence. And is that fair? This issue, I believe, has not gotten the attention it should get because people today are being convicted of things they didn’t commit or the other way around. Why should we even have to question the decision of the court? How has this system grown to be what it is now and how is our system “efficient”?

The Huffington Post describes the term “innocent until proven guilty” as the “bedrock principle of American justice.” But what is the principle of American justice? What makes this the “bedrock” or better yet the “principle”? Also, who decides that this is the principle? What defines American justice?  ( I think that innocent until proven guilty being described as the “bedrock” of American justice is interesting. Different people have different opinions on whether this is the case. According to this part of the article, American justice is defined by the term innocent until proven guilty, but there more to the American justice than just this term.

The first question I mainly focused on was: Is the evidence we find/have enough to convict or not convict the person? I think this is a hard question because what defines “enough evidence”? How do you measure what is usable evidence and what is not? An article I read made the statement,”Most people rightly consider the system as slanted.. chief of which is the requirement that the person is presumed innocent until the government meets the highest burden of proof known in American law: proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to a moral certainty.” ( Who accounts for the “highest burden of proof”? How much is enough evidence? What if there isn’t any evidence, what happens then? When I read this, it makes me believe that the government is only looking for evidence that will show guilt in the suspect. Is all evidence used fairly toward trial? Maybe we should look deeper into what defines evidence as. I think evidence is a tricky aspect of a trial. Evidence can be used to hurt or benefit the suspect. “Flip the criminal presumption of innocence by presuming that claimants are guilty until they can prove their innocence by a preponderance of the evidence or by clear and convincing evidence.” ( If we look at the issue from this perspective, what makes the evidence “clear”? What is there isn’t clear evidence? Do we let the suspect go or detain them until we find it? There has been many cases where people have been detained in jail for years because there wasn’t clear evidence. Do we have the right, in our “efficient” system, to hold people until we have conveying evidence?

The second question I focused on was: After you are set “free”, are you really free? Or does the public still consider you to be guilty? This correlates with the presumptions people make when they hear about a case. We write people off as being guilty or innocent right of the bat. I believe if you are presumed guilty by people from the beginning of the case, you will continue to be guilty for pretty much the rest of your life. Judgement is hard to erase from our mind, so once we make a judgement it will be there forever especially if the case is something sensitive. “It’s generally inadmissible in court, and yet most of us live our lives based on what people we trust tell us they heard or learned. Demanding that all of us presume every defendant innocent outside of a courtroom is to demand that we stop evaluating facts, thereby suffocating independent thought and opinion.” ( Why is it hard to presume the suspect as innocent? Or does it go further into the vocabulary we use such as “suspect”? When we use the word “suspect,” that automatically makes me think they’re guilty? Have words evolved so much that we have think of a word and make a connection to another? Do we have the right to continue saying they are guilty even after all evidence says they are not? What is more important our opinion on the person or the actual case? Maybe we should look into what the psychological effects the “suspect” goes through as a result of judgments everyone perceives. We should look at how the judgments may have an affect on the case itself, does it sway the judge or jury? “It is critical to remember that “innocent until proven guilty” is a legal term and that just because a person is viewed  under the law as “innocent” does not mean that they did not commit the offense. It simply means that a jury was unable to unanimously agree that the government was able to prove the crime beyond and to the exclusion of all reasonable doubt.” ( I think that the question that really struck me when I read this from an article was: Is there a difference between being ‘innocent’ and being ‘not guilty’? In my opinion there are consequences for being “not guilty” vs. being innocent. I think being guilty implies that there wasn’t enough evidence to convict them but the possibility of them having done the crime is still there. Being innocent could imply that you really didn’t have anything to do with the crime. Why don’t we also say that if a person is viewed as guilty then maybe they didn’t commit the crime? I think it is important we look at how words have an affect. Why does it have to mean that there wasn’t enough evidence to convict you instead of you were just innocent period?

Is there more to being “innocent until proven guilty”?

For a country that claims to always give everyone a fair trial and presumes them innocent until proven guilty, we have lost the ability to give anyone the benefit of the doubt. This has become a controversy, as new cases arise we begin to question whether innocent until proven guilty is really in fact true.

When you’re set free, are you really free? Or does everyone still think you’re guilty? I think this questions is always something we all think especially whenever we know that the person is truly guilty but are set free. From the get go we all make presumptions about the person, and we like to write them off as guilty or innocent. I think this question is hard to answer because there are different instances where the person really is innocent. When this question was brought up, I immediately thought of the movie Gone Girl. This movie is about a “happily” married couple. On their 50th anniversary, the wife goes missing. Of course, the husband is automatically seen as a suspect (so we assume he did something to her). So they arrest him and there is a lot of evidence that could convict him but in the end they let him go, the town still believes he had something to do with her disappearance. I would continue to tell you about the movie but I don’t want to spoil it for you if you haven’t seen it (it’s a great movie)! I think this movie is a great example of how we automatically make assumptions and we do this because we think that all this evidence has to mean they are guilty. Many of the articles I read expressed that we as humans automatically judge people and they discuss whether making an assumption of the suspect is right. So I think the question goes further into do assumptions affect you even after you’re set free?

Is the evidence always enough to convict people? Evidence can be very beneficial to the suspect or VERY convicting at times. I read an article that really interested me and I thought it really touched on this question. “It is critical to remember that “innocent until proven guilty” is a legal term and that just because a person is viewed  under the law as “innocent” does not mean that they did not commit the offense.  It simply means that a jury was unable to unanimously agree that the government was able to prove the crime beyond and to the exclusion of all reasonable doubt.” I thought this statement was very clear that evidence isn’t enough sometimes. Even though we many think that person is guilty, evidence will not be sufficient. Or the other way, sometimes evidence will seem to be enough to convict the person. I think further and question how do we know what is enough evidence or what isn’t enough? Does the court always use all the evidence provided or do they pick what they believe will help/convict the suspect after they have made their own assumptions of the suspect?


Piracy Affecting the Music Industry

It has been estimated that every year the music industry loses about $12.5 billion dollars. What is creating this loss? Over the years we have reached new ways of listening to music, whether it be by downloading it or through the internet. As someone who is constantly listening to music, I began to realize that the internet has benefited us by making it easier but what I didn’t realize was that others were suffering because of this.

Listening to music has become such a norm in our society which could explain the many different ways there are to listen to music. Technology has made it more attainable, for example now we have Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, and many more. But what about the people who illegally download music. The music industry is losing money because people have found ways to avoid paying for it, also known as pirating. For example, recently Taylor Swift removed all of her music from Spotify because she is “not willing to contribute my life’s work to an experiment (Spotify) that I don’t feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists, and creators of this music.” So here is a clear example of an artist who is becoming tired of this new music development. This is affecting a complete chain of music industry workers.

Artists are being affected greatly because with new ways of “getting” the music, people aren’t paying for it. With just a click away, we can now access the artists’ music and ultimately give the artist more and more exposure. But what happens when all this exposure is made through pirating? The artists lose money. And what happens when artists, like Taylor Swift, remove their music? Listeners become angry and begin to think that the only reason they do it is because of money. Are the artist really the ones to blame though?

Piracy has become a problem for many things; books now are also being stolen illegally over the internet. Many people don’t really see this as a problem because it isn’t personally hurting them. Also because people tend to think that as long as they don’t get caught, it doesn’t matter. The question arises what should we be doing to stop pirating from happening. And whatever the solution is, will it ultimately hurt the music industry either way? But I believe that the real question is, is piracy really hurting or benefiting the music industry?