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Crime and Punishment

July 27, 2012

This is not going to be a review of the novel by Dostoyevsky.   Sorry to disappoint you. Ha 

The first thing to think about is the recent shooting at the movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado.  Most everyone knows the basic facts of the case. The crime is pretty clear – 12 people dead, numerous people injured.    It seems clear that the suspected killer did the deed since he was caught at the theatre and confessed.  It is also known that he has been acquiring the items required to carry out the murders for a number of months.  This would indicate some premeditation and some planning.  But as we all know, often cases like this drag out for a long time.  Oftentimes months or years go by as we wait for the case to go to court.  Lawyers have to be found for the defendant.  Psychiatric evaluations must occur.  Motions are filed.    We know that the defendant will almost surely plead an insanity defense.  We all get frustrated that the justice system takes so long to decide what seems to be a pretty clear case (“why does it take so long?”).

Contrast that with the recent Penn State.  Jerry Sandusky went to trial relatively quickly and was convicted. The sanctions levied on Penn State by the NCAA took almost no time.  The Freeh commission was announced to begin on November 21, 2011.  The report came out July 12, 2012.  Sanctions were announced July 23.  Penn State “agreed” to the sanctions.   In this case, justice moved very quickly.  But there was no “trial” of Penn State.  Penn State did not get to face its accusers.  The evidence is in one independent report, but it does not follow our judicial rules of evidence.  The judge, prosecutor and jury  in this case is the NCAA.   The NCAA also has other ways to sanction Penn State if Penn State did not cooperate (lesser bowl games or none, at large bids to NCAA tournaments, etc.).  So it was speedy and decisive.  Are you comfortable with that justice system?

My point is not to argue the “right” or “wrong”, the guilty or the innocent.  Here we have justice dispensed in two very different ways.  One is swift, the other is not.  We traded swiftness for due process.

The juxtaposition of these two cases got me thinking.  Am I comfortable with either or both?

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2 Comments
  1. Courtney permalink

    My vote goes to slow and (relatively) impartial/unemotional every time. But you know I don’t agree with basing our actions on immediate emotional responses.

    Noble and I were talking and wondering about the Penn State sanctions. The NCAA is punishing them, but to my (admittedly lacking) knowledge, Penn State did not violate any NCAA rules (I assume this is only because the NCAA didn’t think they’d need laws against pedophilia and taking advantage of children by adults and subsequent cover-up), and yet the NCAA is sanctioning them. Have they done this before? What kind of precedent is the NCAA setting by punishing when no NCAA rule has been broken?

    I don’t mean to argue that Penn State doesn’t deserve the sanctions; the whole situation is incomprehensibly awful, and no amount of sanction or punishment will ever make up for it. But, I figured I’d take a leaf out of your book and throw a question out to which I have no answer.

  2. Hey Court,
    I believe the answer is that the NCAA does not need believe it needs a rule broken to take action. The NCAA can do whatever it wants to basically. In this case they felt that Penn State lost institutional control in favor of its football program. This is a serious PR issue for the NCAA. The NCAA has a blind eye toward the sordid business that is college football because it makes so many billions of dollars yearly. But when that billion dollar money maker has such a bad situation, the NCAA must “take action” or appear insensitive. By taking action the NCAA “Looks good”.

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