The symbol of Justice is traditionally Lady Justice blindfolded and holding a set of weighing scales dangling on her left hand, and a double-edged sword on her right. The scales depict the unbiased judgment in measuring the merits of the case and the opposition. The sword is the symbol of power of the decision of Justice over the case. And the blindfold represents the impartiality of Justice, which he decision of the court is not influenced by wealth, race, gender, political position and social class. In theory, Justice is impartial. But the truth is very much different.
There are other factors that could influence the judgment of court. The jury’s decision could be influenced by the eloquence of the lawyer. The enforcers of the law, fallible as they are, could be swayed by promises of money. Even politics play a crucial role in the decision of the court. Political trade-offs could be used as leverage to obtain a favorable decision. One would only need to look at the famous (and infamous) Kennedy Clan to witness how power and wealth could influence justice. The Kennedy Family is a classic wealthy American family whose members are prominent in politics and government.
The Family is well known not only for their excellent service in the government but also for their involvement in criminal activities and their subsequent exoneration of the criminal charges (Shorter, 2000). The Golden Kennedy Boys In 1968, Ted Kennedy, the youngest brother of John F. Kennedy, was involved in an automobile accident that resulted to the death of Mary Jo Kopechne. On the night of July 18, 1968 Kennedy and Kopechne left a party at the island of Chappaquiddick, Massachusetts. Kennedy claimed that he took a wrong turn.
His unfamiliarity with the road and the lack of guardrails caused him to accidentally drive through a pond. The car toppled upside down under water. Kennedy managed to swim to shore. However, Kennedy’s reaction after the incident was suspicious. When he was not able to save Kopechne, he swam back to Edgartown. The next morning, he went about as if nothing happened. He did not immediately report the incident to the police. In that same morning, two fishermen found the overturned car and reported the incident to the police. It was only then that Kennedy went to the police to file a report.
An inquest was made and the body of Kopechne was exhumed, there were new evidences pointing to Kennedy’s negligent driving lead to Kopechne’s death. There was enough ground for the judge to issue a warrant of arrest but none was issued. Even the District Attorney did not pursue a manslaughter case against Kennedy. Kennedy was only charged with leaving a scene of accident after knowingly causing injury. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to merely two months in jail. His driver’s license was revoked for a year. In a surprise twist, the judge suspended the two-month sentence (Bly, 1999).
Kennedy was treated special because he was the Senator of Massachusetts at the time. Furthermore, the Democrats were eyeing him to be the next potential president. So naturally, his political allies would all rally together to protect his name. It is no doubt that politics in high places influenced the decision of the court (Klein, 2003). If Kennedy were a common individual, without wealth or political clout then he would have surely been charged of manslaughter instead of a petty misdemeanor. Another Kennedy golden boy, William Kennedy Smith the nephew of Ted Kennedy, was accused three times of sexual assault charges.
Patricia Bowman, a woman that Smith met at a bar and invited to the Kennedy estate in Florida, charged smith of sexual assault in 1991. Smith was acquitted of the charge stating that the intercourse was consensual (Maotesian, 2001). Then Audra Soulias a former employee of Smith, charged him again of sexual assault. For the second time Smith was acquitted of the charge. However, Smith was forced to resign from his position in the organization (Maotesian, 2001). But as they say, bad luck comes in threes. For the third time Smith was charged of sexual assault.
Laura Hamilton, also an employee of Smith filed charges against him. It was reported that Smith cleared up the case with a six-figure out-of-court settlement (Maotesian, 2001). Three charges of sexual assault must mean something. Doing the same action three times means that it is slowly evolving into a habit. IF, Smith was truly innocent of the first assault charge, it is suspicious that two other women would “invent” false stories against the same person. Smith is a doctor who is involved in humanitarian efforts against landmines.
But this goody-two shoes reason alone should not be enough to acquit him of three charges. Also, just because he is a member of an influential family should not mean that his in-humanitarian behavior should remain unpunished. Since he clearly has the resources to hire good lawyers and also because he could afford a six-figure settlement, he was able to evade justice. Conclusion The Kennedy family’s vast wealth and power explains their tendency to undermine the law. They think that because they are in influential positions in the government they are exempted from crimes that only affect individuals.
Their zealousness to serve the government is a form of atonement from the crimes that the family has committed. Either that, or their desire to be in positions of influence is to maintain their status as a family that is above the law (Collier, 2002). It is undeniable that wealth and power play a crucial role in our Justice System. The ideals of Justice in itself is noble. But Justice is enforced and dispelled by mortals who are far from perfect and who could be easily swayed by fear, favor, lofty promises or lucrative political trade-offs (Willis, 2001).
When Lady Justice begins to peek through her blindfold and begins to consider the power and wealth of an individual above the evidence and the rule of law then it sends out a message that there are individuals who are exempted from the rule of law. When individuals are exempted from the rule of law, this automatically nullifies the Justice system. It is only when Justice applies across social strata, political position, race and gender will there be true Justice. Otherwise, a biased Justice is just plain mockery of the rule of law.
References Bly, N. (1999).The Kennedy Men: Three Generations of Sex, Scandal and Secrets. Canada: Kensington. Collier, P. & D. Horowitz. (2002). The Kennedys: An American Drama. California: Encounter Books. Klein, E. (2003). The Kennedy Curse. New York. St. Martin’s Press. Maotesian, G. (2001). Law and the Language of Identity: Discourse in the William Kennedy Smith Rape Trial. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Shorter, E. (2000). The Kennedy Family. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Willis, C. et. al. (2001). Stories of Life and Death from an American Family: Kennedys. New York: Avalon Publishing Group.