Is Justice Blind?
This article is not intended as advice for your specific matter. Rather, it is a general article about Nevada law. If you have questions about your particular case, please call Mueller, Hinds and Associates, Chtd. immediately at (702) 940-1234. This information is valid as of July 24, 2017.
Many people unfamiliar with the criminal justice system may believe that the system works, is fair and we are a country of laws, not me. After all, this is one of the principles the country was founded upon. They believe that judges, whether elected or appointed, are able set aside their personal opinions and make fair and impartial judgments, or as Justice John Roberts put it, “call balls and strikes.”
But is that how it really works? Are judges able to set aside irrelevant information, their personal feelings and make impartial judgments? Yes, they wear a black robe and yes they swear an oath, but they’re human too and humans are excellent at making a decision and then rationalizing it.
A new study seems to shed light on this exact question and the results are troubling. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, “When Justice Isn’t So Blind” by Robert M. Sapolsky, a study conducted in part by a Harvard Law School professor found that judges have a hard, if not impossible time setting aside irrelevant information when it comes to rendering their decision. The study gave a group of judges a set of fictitious facts and asked them to apply the given law to those facts. One of the variables was with the likeability or character of the defendant – one was unlikeable, possibly detestable and the other was remorseful and engendered sympathy. Now, the legal question had nothing to do with the character or remorsefulness of the defendant that might come up in a sentencing hearing, but whether under the given facts and law his conviction should be overturned. The judges had to individually decide whether to uphold the conviction and explain their reasoning in writing. The study found that rulings, however they were reasoned, the judges overwhelming upheld the conviction for the unlikeable defendant at 87% versus 41% for the likeable defendant.
What does this mean for you? Hire a good lawyer who can give you an honest assessment of your likeability, flaws and weaknesses so that you can shore those up at trial, and if necessary your sentencing hearing. There’s no reason to think this doesn’t extend to the general population, i.e., the jury that decides your case, and their view or you or your lawyer. Find an experienced criminal defense lawyer that understands people, that is likeable and will be able to present you as a likeable, honest and sympathetic person to the judge, jury and public.
Have a question about a legal case or need to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney? Contact the experienced defense lawyers at Mueller Hinds & Associates for a free consultation.