Thursday, August 18, 2022

Criminal Justice Ignorance

Do you remember those heady days two years ago? It was those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer when millions hit the streets to protest racial injustice in the administration of law enforcement. They weren't sound and fury signifying nothing, though they were sound and fury with relatively little impact.

I thought about them while watching the video, featured in my last post, which included well over six minutes of conversation between Don Lemon and former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, which followed a short introduction by the CNN host. They agreed that Donald Trump broke the law and should be punished; also, that the ex-President is a very bad man, a conclusion unavoidable with any objective individual, let alone a center-left media personality and a lawyer who went to prison because of Mr. Trump.

Yet, they agreed also that an ex-President, in possession of classified information which could be compromised by a fellow prison inmate, should not be incarcerated.  Admittedly, they believe also that, if prosecuted and convicted, be may well be placed into home confinement. However, they were not particularly perturbed by their conclusion that Donald Trump very likely will not land behind bars (aside from the Library Bar at Mar-a-Lago) for offenses which would land any other American in prison.

Or would the latter individual? Donald Trump thus far has been treated by law enforcement with kid gloves. The temptation, indulged in by Messrs. Lemon and Cohen, is that this is privilege unavoidably afforded an ex-President. But we don't know that all of this is a privilege, or at least an advantage, afforded only to the leader of the Free World.

Enforcement of federal laws differs widely from that of state laws or local ordinances. It takes longer, with the government content only with evidence far in excess of what is necessary for prosecution of state or local offenses.

That results in penalties falling disproportionately upon Latinos and especially African-Americans.  It's not intentionally discriminatory, of course;  For a variety of reasons, state and local violations of the law are most common among blacks and, to a lesser extent, Latinos than among non-Hispanic whites. Members of aggrieved minority groups therefore get the short end of the stick.  Were they as professionally successful in modern America as whites, they, too, would be in a position to commit white-collar crimes and savor the benefits of involvement in the relatively fastidious and lenient federal law enforcement and criminal justice systems.

In light of the tumultuous days of summer/fall of 2020, Lemon and Cohen should at least recognize that individuals under federal investigation, or Donald Trump specifically, are conferred advantages unavailable to the fellow possessing illegal drugs for personal use, or for shoplifting, or for any other relatively minor state or local offense.

These considerably eclipse the advantages in the justice system gleaned from being white per se. You'd never know that, though, from Lemon, who was head over heels about the black lives protest two years ago after the murder of George Floyd. Nonetheless, as a show host with a large audience nationally, it's critical he understand the impact of a dual justice system, one in which suspected violators of federal law are dealt a far better hand than those alleged to have violated state laws or municipal ordinances. Yet, he is not even a little ill at ease that Donald Trump may evade the justice those latter scofflaws, many of them African-American, must endure. 

Our judicial system harms African-Americans disproportionately. If one is to take the proper lessons from the summer of 2020, he needs to know that the reasons go beyond, and outstrip, racism.


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