Supreme Individualism in Legal System

This is FREE sample
This text is free, available online and used for guidance and inspiration. Need a 100% unique paper? Order a custom essay.
  • Any subject
  • Within the deadline
  • Without paying in advance
Get custom essay

“Supreme Individualism”, at least in regards to the American legal system and more specifically to this class, can be defined, in my opinion, by the following: An extreme examination of every single person or crime with the belief that any ‘evil’ or crime committed is done so because the person committing the crime is inherently bad. This is how legal practice has been done in the United States since the beginning of the 19th century, and such an approach not only hinders any actual progress in fighting crime and personal absolution but hinders it. Without approaching ‘the search for badness’ by looking for the origin of an evil deed, ‘the search for badness’ will never end.

In the essay, “The Good The Bad and The Lawful: An Essay on Psychological Injustice” Professor Haney describes the theory of a scientist named Kohlberg, who states, “The core operations of any stage, it is argued, should be identifiable independent of cultural context and immediate situational constraint.” (Haney, 110) And I believe this is the epitome of the supreme individualism ‘crisis’ in the legal system. When trying a guilty party and refusing too look or acknowledge extenuating circumstances, such as race, religion, childhood experiences, economic status, and psychological issues as they pertain to the guilty party or how any of these outside influences could have pushed a person to commit a crime, the legal system is making a mistake.

This is best exhibited by the examples Professor Haney brought up in the essay as well as in class. To start, the legal case of Inez Garcia. People assumed that anyone who would, after being traumatized in the way she was, quietly and methodically load a gun, find two men in the middle of the night in her city, and shoot at them until one of them died couldn’t possibly be a right person. That that sort of deliberate action could only be perpetrated by someone, who was just looking for an excuse. The police and first jury were ready to convict her by only the act and the act it’s self, using small details from her life like her inability to tell time as proof of her being obviously deranged.

However, not until her second trial did anyone consider why this quiet and unassuming woman would do something like. They had not considered how her religion looked upon rape victims, how this could ruin her life in the eyes of her friends and family and the effects such an act could have on someone like her. The jury wasn’t interested in looking at a broader picture. The jury was interested in how they could use her quiet lifestyle to prove that she was just evil from the beginning as if there was just no other option. Another case, from the essay, talks about a man who served in the Vietnam war. A man who should be lauded as a hero comes back home from a war-torn country to find that his prospects are gone, his friends neglect him, and even college doesn’t seem to work for him.

While in Vietnam he learned about the drug trade and when all else failed him, he fell into the one, thing that he knew how to do back in the states. One day, something goes wrong, and he hurts two people and is arrested. But what choice did he had when anything that functioned as a support system failed and left him behind. Haney also writes about an African American man who lost his job because of a failing economy, a situation entirely outside of his control. He fails to provide for his wife and kids who leave him, and he’s forced to leave his home because the rent has gone up in a horrific housing market crash.

When an opportunity presents its self, a friend of his offering to help him get money from a string of robberies, a man with seemingly nothing left to lose might take that in the hopes of regaining Something. And he is not inherently an evil man, and to argue something like that is almost laughable. Up until very recently, he has a stable job, a family, and a home. Surely, he couldn’t have been bidding him to for a convenient excuse to rob people. One more scenario Haney proposes features a Chicano man who was sentenced to prison on burglary charges. He decided not to take a plea deal, either because the situation was poorly explained and he was not a lawyer, or because he believed the judge would look at his clean record and give him a shorter sentence, regardless he was sentenced to several years in the state prison.

While the flaws of the prison system are numerous, overcrowding is the most prominent one in the modern United States of America, and the prisoner was entirely unprepared for what he was expected to face. After being assaulted in his bunk one night, a fight broke out that resulted in one dead body. The result and punishment for what is necessarily self-defense become seven months of solitary confinement while a jury deliberates. How does a man who is trying to defend himself, with a clear record, barring the burglary charge, possibly intend to murder someone and how is putting him into solitary confinement for seven months beneficial for anyone involved? All four of these people, Inez Garcia, the army vet, the criminal, and the fired worker are not inherently evil people.

To use a common phrase, these people were victims of circumstance. They were pushed to commit a crime not because they were all waiting for the perfect moment to strike against society, but because society forced them to commit the crime. With no support system, years of societal pressures, desperation and their safety at risk, they did the only possible option they had. But the Supreme Individualism system of law didn’t care about extenuating circumstance. “Rather what accounts for most crimes is the systemic exposure of some persons to criminogenic social conditions like poverty and racism.” (Haney, 113)

Haney writes. “People become criminals as much because of where they are as what they are.” One law case where the defense argued this exact argument and it worked out for them is the case of Dan White. A situation that is different from the last four, but still worth discussing. Dan White was a former police officer who, in an attempt to do good by his neighbors and friends became a city supervisor.

However, as time went on, he realized not only was he losing every single vote being the only conservative in a district like San Francisco, but he was also losing money. The job of city supervisor paid significantly less than the police pension which he could no longer receive because of his new career. As things continued to get and worse his wife and children left their home to move into a cheaper apartment. They even tried to open their own business as a secondary revenue stream. But nothing seemed to work. In the act of desperation, Dan White quit his job, a move that isolated him from his friends and made the city lose respect for him. This started a downward spiral of depression and stress and what ended with the death of the mayor and another city supervisor, George Moscone, and Harvey Milk.

A man who had a family, who used to be a firefighter and a police officer, a man who ran for local government, a man who had his life together until one mistake. The system agreed. They gave Dan White a seven-year sentence of which he only had to serve five years of. What should have been a charge for two counts of capital murder became two counts of voluntary manslaughter. Now when situational reasoning, so to speak, is applied, it works. Maybe because it only ever seems to be used to white, able-bodied, straight men, and not to those who need it.

Supreme Individualism is not a fair system. While it can be argued that a good lawyer would be capable of working around a system like this, that’s been proven to be true, once again, only with able-bodied white men. Inez Garcia had one of the most prominent lawyers of her time defending her, and he didn’t even consider using self-defense or bringing up her religion and her circumstances in the argument.

Supreme Individualism was a system that is designed to find the momentary weakness a person in a dire state has and exploit it and spin it into making the person, usually with no other option, into a monster. It is a system that refuses to acknowledge issues such as poverty and racism and only serves to fill already backed up prisons with more innocent people to try and get them as far away from a society that can’t stand the thought of being at fault. And how efficient can this system be when it’s solution to a man trying to defend himself from assault is seven months of solitary confinement, a system that is not only mentally harmful but has been proven to have no results.

Maybe, somewhere, at some point in history, there was an inherently evil person. And maybe supreme individualism has a purpose then. But it can not possibly continue to have a goal for every single person who has to deal with the criminal justice system. People who commit a crime, who do so because in their minds they have no other choice should not be punished in a way that not only doesn’t solve an issue but just makes another problem worse. If the legal system does not change some aspect of it, does not attempt to find a solution to crime other then supreme individualism, then the American prison system will continue to be too full or marginalized communities who had no choice but to try and survive.

Cite this paper

Supreme Individualism in Legal System. (2021, Dec 26). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/supreme-individualism-in-legal-system/

We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

Peter is on the line!

Don't settle for a cookie-cutter essay. Receive a tailored piece that meets your specific needs and requirements.

Check it out