An innocent (almost felon) abroad

That is the title of this short paper by Christopher Balding (@BaldingsWorld) describing a recent low-level but illuminating encounter he had with the Chinese legal system. (Check out Professor Balding’s fascinating Twitter feed here.) Below the fold is one excerpt from Balding’s paper that we found especially poignant:

As [a North] American, I found myself thinking of justice in two distinct but related ways. [North] Americans tend to think of justice as being comprised of both what I will term cosmic justice as to whether a person committed the exact crimes they are accused of and whether proper procedures of justice were carried out in proving the accused guilty. The more I thought about how we conceive of justice the more I realized the complexity and implications upon how we as [North] Americans generally think of justice.

Though we may not readily admit it, cosmic and procedural justice frequently conflict in their objectives. To this day, many consider the criminal conviction of Al Capone for tax evasion as almost illegitimate due as it avoided any consideration of what everyone believed his real crimes for which the government could not bring a case. In other words, while the procedure was followed it avoided the question of his alleged real crimes to secure a conviction. This raises questions which many will ask if similar tactics could be used in other areas to intimidate potential defendants when the real crime cannot be proven or a conviction secured so they are charged with other crimes.

There are other instances where it is widely accepted that a defendant committed the crime but for a variety of reasons, they may not be convicted. In one of the most famous cases in modern American justice, OJ Simpson was found not guilty even though it is widely believed he committed the crime. Even if many people believe he committed the crime, the procedure did not produce a guilty verdict creating a sense of conflict between the cosmic and procedural justice.

Balding’s short paper is full of many more insights and gems of wisdom. Hat tip: The Amazing Tyler Cowen.

Related image

Image Credit: The Beijinger

About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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