Tag: justice

German Government Set To Pay Compensation To Gays Convicted Of Violating Anti-homosexuality Laws

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor.

gay-pride-flagA long-overdue measure to compensate persons convicted of violating Germany’s 19th century anti-homosexuality law–since repealed–is to finally arrive. The German government set aside a reported thirty-million euros to be distributed among potentially an estimated fifty-thousand men convicted of homosexuality. The award stems for convictions spanning seventy years since the destruction of the Nazi Government.
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Court Sentences Man To 13 Years For Removing Turkish Flag

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Flag of TurkeyIn an injustice to both the liberty of a Kurdish man and free speech in general a court in Turkey handed down thirteen year sentence to a defendant accused of removing a Turkish flag at a military base near Diyarbakir, Turkey. The disproportionate sentence followed an outraged Recep Erdogan who declared after the act, “[w]e don’t care if he is a child. Even if a child dares to take down our sacred flag both him and those who send him there will pay a price.”

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Woman Beaten To Death And Set Alight In Afghanistan Was Wrongly Accused

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor


If it was possible to add another injustice levied against Farkhunda, a woman who suffered a brutal murder at the hands of a mob in Afghanistan that insisted she burned a Koran, authorities publicly announced she was in fact innocent of these claims.

In response to this outrage, a day of national morning occurred during her funeral and burial. Various leaders including Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani strongly condemned her murder as a heinous attack. Reports of police standing nearby and indifferent to the incident lead the president to call for fundamental reforms in the nation’s police forces.

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Religion, Justice and The Just World Hypothesis

By Mark Esposito, Weekend Blogger

Can religious beliefs actually retard our intuitions for justice and fairness? Research seems to suggest it might well. The Christian religion has imbued Western thought with the fundamental belief that God presides over a just world – one where sin is punished and rightly-held beliefs and actions are rewarded. We see this attitude in every aspect of human interaction. Today, in some sparkling sports stadium an earnest athlete is bound to thank his deity of choice for the good fortunes that befell his team or his game changing performance. By extension, the loser ( a value loaded word if ever there was one) will decry his lack of luck. From the Book of Job to Pinocchio and Cinderella, this belief in what some psychologists call “immanent justice” or “The Just Word Hypothesis” seeks to explain our plight and our success. It also hardens our attitudes about the poor, victims of crimes and those folks either buoyed or sunk by pure chance.

The Book of Job gets us into the mindset. A saintly man if ever there was one as the Bible itself acknowledges, God allows Satan to test Job with all manner of suffering to determine his worthiness. Stripped of his wealth, prestige and power, Job then loses his children and ultimately his health and vigor. Still, Job endures and never ever curses his fate – or his God. He does consult his friends for some inkling as to the cause of his travails. Their answer, which comes like a thunderclap is: “Behold,” one of them declares, “God will not cast away an innocent man, neither will he uphold evildoers” (Job 8:20). Classic “Blame the Victim” mentality from this coterie of advisers.

Puzzled but resolute, Job however concludes that despite his worldly righteousness, he can never know divine justice and according to the story prostrates himself silent before his Master’s “Just World.’ For that, he is rewarded with the resumption of his wealth and status. He even replaces his children with seven new ones. The clear message to the world however is the same: God handles the world’s justice and we are powerless to exact our own except on only the most superficial level.

Jesus himself gets in on the act in the New Testament. Addressing the multitude in the Sermon on the Mount, he has two distinct things to say about justice and our expectations of it: Blessed are…..those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they will be filled. (Matt. 5:6) and Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:10). In modern speak, “Don’t worry God will handle it in his own way and, if you let him do so, you’ll get the whole enchilada. The pearly gates, the mansions, those singing and harp-playing cherubim … you, my faithful believer, get it all.”

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Sudan Foreign Ministry States Christian Woman Sentenced To Death For Apostasy Will Be Freed

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

meriam-yehya-ibrahim-apostasy-sharia-law-sudanAfter an international outrage and widespread condemnation following the death sentence of a pregnant, Christian Sudanese woman accused apostasy and adultery for her marriage to a Christian man, the Sudanese Government has publicly stated it would instead release Meriam Yehya Ibrahim from custody.

BBC News reports that Abdullahi Alzareg, an under-secretary at the foreign ministry, said Sudan guaranteed religious freedom and was committed to protecting the woman who was to be release in a few days.

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Lawyer Representing Doctor Accused Of Aiding The US To Find Bin Laden Quits Case After Receiving Death Threats

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Flag of PakistanIn an interview with the BBC, Lawyer Samiullah Afridi said his defense of Dr. Shakil Afridi Would end due to continual death threats against him over the last two years. Samiulla, who is not related to his client, had at one point left the country out of fear for his safety.

We previously discussed the worsening situation for lawyers in Pakistan defending those accused of infamous crimes and civil rights issues in the Murder of Attorney Rashid Rehman.

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Sharia Law Becomes Effective In Brunei: Law Permitting Stoning To Death Of Gays, Adulterers And Apostates Will Follow

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

The Sultan of Brunei
Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah

Absolute monarch Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei announced in January a harsh form of sharia law will be enacted. Effective in three phases beginning now and spanning two years, the edict eventually allows for the stoning to death of homosexuals, adulterers, and apostates; for amputation of limbs for those convicted of theft; and flogging for abortions and the consumption of alcohol. The capital offense provisions of the law reportedly apply only to Muslims.

Sultan Bolkiah claims this is a step in solidifying a long cultural tradition in the sultanate which was established in the fourteenth century. Increasingly conservative Muslim politicians and officials in Brunei, Malaysia, and Indonesia are beginning to move from sharia being limited to family matters to now criminal law and capital offenses. Acheh in Indonesia is included especially. While Brunei enjoys one of the highest per capital income in the world, has many social benefits such as effectively free health care and education, its population of over 416,000 individuals now is seeing human rights restricted in a trend that is generating international condemnation in the West. Al-Jazeera reported that many members of the Muslim ethnic Malay majority have voiced cautious support for the changes. However, non-Muslim citizens, who are fifteen percent of the population, led a rare burst of criticism on social media earlier this year, but largely went silent after the sultan called for a halt.

Emblem of Brunei“Theory states that God’s law is harsh and unfair, but God himself has said that his law is indeed fair,” the sultan said.

But will Western governments be willing to isolate countries engaging in abuses of individuals and oppression of the human rights of populations or is trade and money going to become the focus and inconveniences such as abuse continue to be ignored?

Continue reading “Sharia Law Becomes Effective In Brunei: Law Permitting Stoning To Death Of Gays, Adulterers And Apostates Will Follow”

Arizona Sheriff Puts Inmates On Bread And Water Diet For Flag Desecration

Submitted by Darren Smith: Weekend Contributor

BreadMaricopa County Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now placing inmates suspected of desecration of flags posted inside county jails on a bread and water meal plan for two of the meals each day. Sheriff Arpaio states:

“These inmates have destroyed the American flag that was placed in their cells. Tearing them, writing on them, stepping on them, throwing them in the toilet, trash or wherever they feel,” Arpaio said in a statement. “It’s a disgrace to those who have fought for our country.”

Is this a fitting punishment for 21st Century American Corrections?
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American Juries: Seekers of Truth or Mere Consensus? Part II

By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

Author’s note: This is the second in a series of related posts examining the American Jury. In the first installment (here), we looked at the antecedents created by the judicial system that foster Jury Groupthink. We said that seven systemic components lead to a higher risk of groupthink when citizens form isolated, cohesive work groups to decide issues in a litigation setting. We also explained that the more antecedents in the mix, the higher the likelihood of decisions based not on reason or evidence but more on the need to reach a unanimous decision and to defend that decision later. The events of this week serve almost as a scripted piece of this article as first one then another juror in the Zimmerman case came forward to exemplify aspects of the groupthink mentality. (More about that  in Installment Three.) Antecedents by the judicial system aren’t the only promoters of group think. Societal constructs created by our society as a whole enhances the pattern, too, and serve as telltale markers of the bad decision-making, as we shall see.

rodney_matthews_alice in wonderland_the knave on trial

You think your average juror is King Solomon? No! He’s a roofer with a mortgage. He wants to go home and sit in his Barcalounger and let the cable TV wash over him. And this man doesn’t give a single, solitary droplet of shit about truth, justice or your American way.

~John Grisham, The Runaway Jury


John Grisham’s crystallized cynicism surely doesn’t hold true for all jurors but the point to be made is that jurors are not “big picture” deciders of great issues of the day utilizing lofty principles. Instead, jurors tend to recoil from abstract notions of truth and justice and delve more deeply into human motivations and empathy. In their classic work on American juries, Professors Kalven and Zeisel of the University of Chicago, concluded that “in many instances the jury reaction goes well beyond” rational sentiments “and rests on empathy of one human being to another.”  Appealing enough to our natural sentiments and intuitively correct, but  in the battle of human versus human, the question becomes, “empathy for whom?” And how does empathy fit into the structure of  a system that calls for cold-blooded reason and eschews warm-hearted sentiments? Not so well, it seems. In fact, jurors swear off these  emotional human frailties (which form much of their everyday decision-making. Don’t think so? Ask yourself: “Why did I marry my wife? Wide pubic bone for ease in childbearing perhaps, there Mr. Spock?) and promise to be guided by the evidence alone.  How can juries bridge the gap between their own intuition and the judge’s instruction?

Continue reading “American Juries: Seekers of Truth or Mere Consensus? Part II”

American Juries: Seekers of Truth or Mere Consensus? Part I

By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

rodney_matthews_alice in wonderland_the knave on trial

”Write that down,” the King said to the jury, and the jury eagerly wrote down all three dates on their slates, and then added them up, and reduced the answer to shillings and pence.”

~Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Few institutions of the English speaking peoples are held in the same esteem as juries in criminal cases. A full three quarters of those polled in the U.S. would want their case decided by a jury rather than a judge. Three in five Australians believe their jury system is working well. In the UK, juries enjoy support from 72% of the population and the same percentage rate the right to trial by jury as one of the most important in society. Compare that to the U.S. Congress’ approval rating of 15% or the President’s rating of 43% and you can see that in America we love juries.

And why shouldn’t we? After all, it was Jefferson who reminded none other than that firebrand of the Revolution, Thomas Payne, in 1789, that “trial by jury [is] the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.” Jefferson words surely were on the mind of Justice Byron “Whizzer” White when he wrote, “The purpose of a jury is to guard against the exercise of arbitrary power — to make available the commonsense judgment of the community as a hedge against the overzealous or mistaken prosecutor and in preference to the professional or perhaps overconditioned or biased response of a judge.”

But do modern juries live up to the billing? Are they the bulwarks of democracy seeking only truth or sad victims of a process designed to produce groupthink results due to systemic flaws? Are they staunch individuals committed to their position and determined to fight to the last man to prove it, or are they susceptible to influences both in and out of the deliberation room which have little or nothing to do with evidence and logic. In essence, are they seekers of truth or merely consensus?

Continue reading “American Juries: Seekers of Truth or Mere Consensus? Part I”

The Specious Roots of the Anti-Abortion Controversy

Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger

ImageI originally had a guest blog planned for today on a completely different topic, but I ran across an article in Friday’s Huffington Post, that changed my direction. Since I was a youth I have been aghast at the fact that I grew up in a country where such things as homosexuality and abortion were prohibited by law.  It seemed like this was too personal an interference by the State into the personal affairs of people and that this interference often ruined people’s lives. Then too, I grew up in New York State, where for so many years divorce was unobtainable leading to such ridiculousness as Governor Nelson Rockefeller’s wife having to establish Nevada residence in order to obtain a divorce from him. It seemed to me then, as it seems to me now, that religious dogma had no business invading our legal system.

Although there were many prior years of a movement building up in support of abolishing Abortion Laws, the decision of Roe vs. Wade in 1973 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roe_v._Wade  was a breathtaking and welcome surprise. Immediately after, however, there started the blow-back against that decision that almost forty years later continues with fervor and intensity. The opposition cites “The Bible” as the source of their angry opposition and claims that their religion, as encoded in “The Bible” describes abortion as murder, with the life of the child beginning at fertilization. When they quote “The Bible” of course they mean the “New Testament” and what they call “The Old Testament”.  Jews actually don’t recognize the term “Old Testament”, to us it is called the “Torah”, since Jews believe that their “Torah” was never replaced by a “New Testament”. The anti-Abortionists need to cite the “Torah” for their beliefs, since the Gospels don’t discuss the abortion issue. Like much that exists in Christian Dogma today, there is a need to cite the “Torah” for their beliefs since there is no evidence in the Gospels that Jesus ever spoke on some matters. Christian “Torah” citation though is haphazard in that they choose what portions to recognize and what portions to ignore. The sentiments of those Christians against abortion are based in the “Torah”. What if their citation of this venerable book stemmed from an incorrect translation of it many, many centuries ago? If they cited it incorrectly in the first instance, doesn’t that destroy their whole argument that abortion is murder in God’s eyes, especially if the writers of the “Torah” never understood abortion to be murder? This is what I’d like to discuss. Continue reading “The Specious Roots of the Anti-Abortion Controversy”