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Beliefs Have Consequences, Commentary # 16
© 1999 Dorothy A. Miller
Lady Justice Takes Off Her Blindfold”

      Something new happening in the court systems of America profoundly effects ours lives—but no one seems to have noticed its arrival. 

    For years, Lady Justice, the symbol of our courts, has stood draped in the garb of the ancient Roman toga, holding up a balance in her hand. The blindfold covering her eyes represented justice as impartial and giving weight only to the evidence in a trial, not the stature or station of the accused.

       This symbol has stood us well (as well as it can since frail human beings of necessity are part of the process.) But objectivity is missing due to an addition to the murder trials of today.  As in any trial the guilt or innocence phase is first.  Although we have all heard about instances of wrongful convictions and of guilty murderers going free, a new standardized evil has crept into the system.      

      Somewhere along the line in capital crimes, Lady Justice has taken off her blindfold.  The second phase, which comes next if an accused person is found guilty of murder, contains the tragic new phenomena to which I refer.

       You may have noticed this phase which was added to murder trials in just the last ten years.   Now, in order to help the jury decide whether or not to impose the death penalty, we see what is known as the “victim impact phase.”

       Family members of the murdered victim come forward one at a time and most tearfully and convincingly testify about the impact in their lives from the death of their loved one. 

       Witnesses give heart-wrenching testimony about lost love, irreplaceable husbands, wives, mothers, fathers or children.  The jury hears moving accounts of talented, kind hardworking people cut down in their prime or even in their youth.

      The prosecution uses this emotional testimony of impact, hoping to sway the jury into calling for the death penalty.

      What is wrong with this you ask?  Nothing...except the bottom line premise.

      You see, by hearing testimony about murdered people and how their death’s adversely affect family, friends and society, we are creating a yardstick by which to measure a person’s worth.  Friends+productiveness=value. But what if victims have no one to speak up for them?  This new yardstick implies that the murder of people who were unloved, or had no particular talents to offer to society is a lesser crime, not worthy of the death penalty.

      Here is the crossroad: Either each human life is precious because we are made in the image of God or, as reflected by this very impact phase in sentencing, our worth is determined by our perceived value, number of friends, and potential contribution to society.

      Where can this value system lead?  One only has to look at the Holocaust in Germany to discover the answer. 

      Lady Justice, put your blindfold back on....You must value the lives of all people and administer equal punishment for taking a life...
                                                          Beliefs Have Consequences!

              Next commenatry “Which Came First, Fathers or God?
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