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Inequality In The American Justice System

946 words - 4 pages

Inequality in the American Justice SystemDavid Cole wrote, "our criminal justice system affirmatively depends on inequality" (5). Cole has substantial grounds for making this statement. Race and class have long been issues in the criminal justice system, but does the system "affirmatively depend on inequality?" Does the criminal justice system depend on the disparities of the people that it serves?American justice is supposed to be blind. Despite this there have been many disparities in the justice system due to racial, social class, and economic reasons. "Absent race and class disparities, the privileged among us could not enjoy as much constitutional protection of our liberties as we do..." (Cole 5). The case of Gideon v. Wainwright can be used to illustrate this point. Cole summarizes the case:Clarence Earl Gideon, a penniless Florida man, down on his luck and charged with breaking and entering a poolroom, claims that although he can't afford a layer, he has a constitutional right to have a lawyer appointed by the state to defend him. When the Florida trial court denies his request, [Gideon] represents himself, and is convicted. From prison, [Gideon] sends a hand-written note to the Supreme Court asking it to hear his case. ...Abe Fortas [is appointed] to argue Gideon's case, and then [the Court] rules that the Sixth Amendment guarantees indigent defendants the assistance of a lawyer in all serious criminal trials. On retrial, with a lawyer paid for by the states, Gideon is acquitted. (63)The Gideon v. Wainwright may not appear to support the previous statement: "Absent race and class disparities, the privileged among us could not enjoy as much constitutional protection of our liberties as we do..." (Cole 5). The outcome of Gideon requires government to provide a lawyer to a defendant, "[b]ut as long as the state provides a warm body with a law degree and a bar admission, little else matters" (Cole 64). Even though the state provides indigent defense counsel, most are "underpaid, overworked, and given insufficient resources to conduct an adequate investigation and defense" (Cole 84). Cole states that in 1990, "[t]he national average per capita spending on local and state indigent defense was $5.37" (84). Cole also points out other facts about the ruling in Gideon v. Wainwright:One of the most remarkable facts about the constitutional right declared in Gideon v. Wainwright is that it was not a constitutional right for the first 184 years of our Constitution. The Sixth Amendment guarantees that 'In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right...to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.' But for most of our history, this right applied only to the approximately 10 percent of criminal trials that take place in federal court, and even there is meant only that defendants who had the money to...

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