“What evil has this man done? I found him guilty of no capital crime” Luke 23:22
Constitutional rights in criminal cases are something that can be easily taken for granted in our 24/7 TMZ world. Often people complain that defendants get off on a technicality, and they wonder how criminal defense attorneys can even sleep at night, or go to church on Sunday. So I’d like to take this week before Easter Sunday to compare the modern system to the trial of Jesus, as it is presented in the Gospel narratives.
Alas, I’m not equipped to explore whether the trial was fair according to the legal standards in first century Judea. What I’d like to show is how our modern criminal justice system is there to protect you and me from being crucified unjustly without a sound basis.
One big difference is before the trial, where Judas identified Jesus and then immediately hanged himself. In today’s courts, Judas’ lack of testimony at the preliminary hearing might have made the difference in whether the judge should toss out the case altogether for want of probable cause. But the actual trial of Jesus proceeded without some very basic due process rights. For instance, the accusers did not formally charge him with the violation of a specific law and ask him for a plea. He was not given a chance to talk to an attorney, to offer witnesses in his own defense, or to have his case heard before 12 impartial peers.
Jesus was then forced to speak in testimony against himself, and was continually prodded to do so by the accusers, before he was convicted on his own words. The only other testimony was offered by conflicting witnesses, which could be enough to create “reasonable doubt” in the United States of America.
After the trial, Jesus was declared “not guilty” by Pontius Pilate, but instead of being free to leave, he was punished by government-sanctioned torture. When he was finally sentenced to death, it was not based on sentencing guidelines set by statute, or even democratic vote, but on the fury of an angry crowd on the premises.
Finally, he was given no opportunity to appeal his conviction to explore the basis that he had never been found guilty of any actual crime. Within 24 hours of his arrest, they crucified him. In today’s world, he might have had chances to appeal his case, and he might never have lost the chance to keep trying, in the states that have abolished the death penalty.
What can we learn from this comparison? Many people go through the criminal court system in a single year who might have been imprisoned for years or possibly executed based on the level of injustice faced by Jesus in the Gospel narratives.
So let’s remember the legal protections that every Illinois resident has whenever he or she is accused of a crime. Criminal defense lawyers don’t simply “get them off,” but rather protect all of us from the injustice that would happen if these rights were eliminated or ignored. If you are facing criminal charges and you think an attorney can help your case, feel free to contact me at 815-322-9818 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
DISCLAIMER: Please do not prepare your own documents / filings after reading this blog, without consulting an attorney first about your specific situation. I make no representations or guarantees here as to the applicability of any claim in your specific situation. This blog is ADVERTISING MATERIAL only, and should not be relied upon as legal advice, especially if you are not an Illinois resident. Please contact me if you have a legal question or concern, as no attorney-client agreement will exist between myself and any readers of this blog unless it is signed in writing.
Photo: Ecce Homo by Ciseri / public domain