Elusive Justice

Man pressing the imbalance scale

All eyes are watching the slowly moving miscarriage of justice. Hope lies with Him?

Once again America’s eyes fixate on courtrooms in Georgia and Wisconsin where our criminal justice system attempts to resolve at least two, material conflicts. These conflicts echo from our perilous past, yet resound within our present reality.  And, deep in our souls this is unfolding like a nightmarish sequel.  We’ve seen this act before: white men on trial for taking the law into their own hands. They’ve exacted injustice and vengeance on minorities and minority-related causes. And, serving as their ancestors did, they acted as judge, jury and executioner.

Black people have definitely seen this act before. From Emmet Till to Medgar Evers to Trayvon Martin, American history abounds with such cases. White males put others and brothers in their places in order to maintain their version of law and order (actually  lawlessness & disorder). However, this time, in 2021, the absolute truth and fear crystalizes for many. That is, if Kyle Rittenhouse and the McMichael/Bryan conspirators elude justice with their version of vigilantism (defined as law enforcement undertaken without legal authority by a self-appointed group of people), we are all fair game for any deluded, unstable, disgruntled, or impulsive white men.

Sadly, most of us would not be surprised. This overwhelmingly white jury could very well choose to ignore the reasons why an underage teenager would cross state lines. They could choose to overlook his illegally possessed and loaded AR-15 rifle ( a killing machine). They could turn a blind eye on the fact that, ultimately,  he killed two and injured one.  Sadly, most of us, would not be surprised if in the case of McMichaels and Bryan, the overwhelmingly white jury chooses to ignore the evidence that Ahmaud Arbery had no stolen items on his person. Yet, these three agents of death chased him down like a dog and shot him in cold-blood. There is historical precedent for this in the infamous southern white male/black male experience.

Justice Demands More Today

One must admit that there was a day in our perilous pilgrimage when white men would not even be charged in analogous situations.  However, justice today demands more than an arrest, a charge, or a trial.  Justice today demands convictions and incarceration terms commensurate with the crimes committed. How can we ensure that justice reigns in these two cases?  How can we be assured that the jury will get it right this time?  As a Christian, what comfort can I procure from these cases when it appears that I may not get the result I want?

Unfortunately, the answer to these questions is complicated, because life is an education and the tuition is high.  As a former prosecutor and current criminal defense attorney for more than 20 years, the Lord knows I have seen my share of injustice. I’ve seen innocent men convicted and I’ve seen guilty men go free.  I’ve seen men with little culpability punished severely and men with great culpability get a slap on the wrist.  You see, in criminal law every case is different.  Every case involves different facts and different parties and different prosecutors and different defense attorneys and different judges.

Yes, there are patterns, and yet every case is different.  For every robbery case where someone is sent to prison, another person gets probation.  One might ask “where is the justice in that?”

Its elusive!  In criminal law, there is no one size fits all.  When I passed the bar exam in 1995 and was sworn in, the judge said “Welcome to the Practice of Law”, because that is what law is- practice!   The practice of law is an art, not a science.  In other words, there is no certainty in the practice of law.  That is why your fears of a miscarriage of justice in the Rittenhouse and McMichael/Bryan (not Ahmaud Arbery) trials are correctly placed.

Herein Lies Certainty and Hope

I wish that I could tell Ahmad Arbery’s mother that her tears will not be in vain because her son’s killers will definitely be convicted. I cannot make that promise.  I wish that I could assure the people of Wisconsin that when Kyle Rittenhouse is convicted, it will deter others who think and act like him from following suit. I cannot convey that either. It appears that Rittenhouse may actually get off.  In other words both of these cases could end in convictions, but they could also end in acquittals.

Many who are striving  to be Christian are understandably frustrated by the lack of justice experienced in the now, and with that promise for future justice when the Lord returns.  Many of us want the Lord to do what he said in Zechariah 7:9: “Execute true justice,” right now!

But God says hold on.  The God who knows all, and sees all, says ultimately I will make right all that has gone wrong in this world.

“Vengeance is mine saith the Lord.  I will repay” (Deuteronomy 32:35).  If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, you should already know that we live in a sin-cursed world and man’s inhumanity to man can derail our pursuit of justice.  In other words, injustice will always be here with us.

However, don’t lose hope. A new heaven and a new earth are coming, where God is going to wipe away all tears from our eyes. And, there will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor pain, (Revelation 21:4, 5).  Today on this earth in courthouses in Wisconsin and Georgia justice might seem elusive. One day soon, however, justice is going to roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream, (Amos 5:24).

 

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