Protecting rights in the American legal system

[Ed. note: I normally avoid politics on this blog (and frankly, just about anywhere else. It’s no longer enjoyable for me to engage in political debate), so I hope this post doesn’t violate that too much. I’ve tried to avoid making too many references to contemporary events or persons, because that’s not what this is about. I’m talking about the philosophy of the American legal system, which is not always related to the implementation.]

A friend of mine recently shared an article on The Agitator about the death of Rodney King and people’s reactions to his life and death. One line toward the end of the article particularly resonated with me:

Part of protecting rights is committing to protect them without caring too much whether the rights are held by people who are awful or wonderful.

This sounds like something Atticus Finch might have said to his children to explain why he was defending a convicted felon. To me, it seems to be the heart of the American legal system. Our notion of presumed innocence, and fourth through eighth amendments to the Constitution are all intended to be applied to everyone, whether we’d invite them into our homes or not. The mob mentality sometimes forgets these ideals, and for that we have the cold, impersonal justice system.

It can be difficult when a high-profile case doesn’t go the way you expect, or even an episode of “Law and Order”, which generally has several procedural rulings in addition to the verdict. Even in the cases where the system fails to convict a guilty person, I’m glad our system is set up the way it is. The older I get, the more appreciation I have for the philosophical foundings of American government and law. I look foward to explaining them to my daughter when she’s old enough.

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