The Unintended Harms of the Criminal Justice System in Capital Cases
The criminal justice system relies heavily on exercising an adversarial approach between a citizen and the state. In this system, the state is deemed the injured party and has sole right to take action against the defendant. The intended purpose in the development of the criminal justice process is to remove any disproportionate human emotion that may be excessive in the sentencing of defendants. This, in essence, creates an offender-focused model. It can be argued however that this process for the attainment of justice appears to be rooted in a severe distrust of victims and can unintentionally damage those close to the case.
Humane communication between any parties who have been directly affected by the crime is typically discouraged or tainted by the adversarial system which strives to discredit and defame the opposing party. The courtroom does not foster a platform for empathic human interaction.
The criminal justice system is more focused on the resolution of cases rather than justice. In the current criminal justice system, victim-survivors only know the justice that is defined for them by the prosecution of the case which is typically translated into forms of revenge, punishment and retribution. Although punishment and revenge are normal initial reactions to violent crimes, they have the potential of re-traumatizing victim-survivors and harming innocent parties by focusing on these aspects of the trial rather than healing. Retribution is another form of accountability that the criminal justice system employs often. This method is limited in terms of accountability and does not fully focus on the emotional needs of victims. While they are components of justice; revenge, punishment and retribution, by themselves do not equate to justice. Yet, these components hold a prominent position in the adversarial system.
Generally, the criminal justice system is confusing, overwhelming, exasperating, dehumanizing, and slow. Through this process, people close to a capital case may experience severe emotional pain which compounds that which they have already experienced by the loss of their loved one. This system does not focus on respect, fairness, or kindness to those who are most in need and who have lost the most.
There is great potential for an “everybody wins” outcome when defense attorneys use every resource available to fully represent their clients.