The American dream promotes that everyone has a shot at success and that everyone is equal under the law. While opportunities for personal success appear to be more available in America than in most other nations, I feel the “equal under the law” promise has over time eroded to that of myth status.
My investigations agency for over 20 years has supported the positions of hundreds of clients and has worked with dozens of law firms. Our experience is that the legal system, although well intended, clearly is not fair. It appears that we have two sets of standards: one for the very rich, famous, and powerful, and one for everyone else.
While I have observed that those with ample funds are charged up to 10 times more by law firms for the same work as those less able to pay, those unwilling or unable to spend on resources will not obtain the expert testimony and investigative research needed prove their case.
While I am proud and so admire our judges for their professionalism and skill, the truth is that those with money are more likely to prevail. Judges can only rule on what is presented. Typically, the better prepared and better funded will often prevail.
Our American concept of equality is supposed to be centered on the law. If we are truly a nation of laws, then the underfunded would nevertheless be equally represented. Often those without resources plead no contest, although innocent, rather than trust the outcome to an ill-prepared public defender.
The good news is that recent improvements in technology mean that evidence, testimony, videos and electronic resources are more accessible. Rulings are now shifting back toward fairness and are more accurately supporting more appropriate civil, family law and criminal case decisions.
One thing that our legal system does well is that is seeks outside and independently verifiable information, rather than relying on the claims of the accused.
Imagine if someone on trial for murder is exonerated of all charges solely because of an impassioned claim that he or she was innocent, despite proof to the contrary by law enforcement. We would call this outcome crazy and unfair.
Imagine if someone who was wealthy was excused from proceedings simply because taking them down would affect the financial condition of others. Outrageous.
We can agree that the claim of innocence alone should have no bearing on any legal outcome. We can also agree that preserving stability and wealth is never more important than seeking justice.
Despite movement back toward a more equitable legal outcome as a result of increased access to technology and information, our discontinuity is lately perpetuated by our president.
On July 17 at a news conference in Helsinki, President Trump spoke about Russia’s efforts to support Trump’s election. These comments reveal flawed thinking and two sets of legal rules.
“I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today. President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia…”
This crazy comment indicates that evidence revealed by our law enforcement agencies should be ignored because of an “extremely strong and powerful” denial by the perpetrator.
When asked about the conclusion by the CIA that the Saudi crown prince ordered the murder of journalist and American resident Jamal Khashoggi, Trump said this on Nov. 22:
“Maybe the world should be held accountable. The world is a very vicious place. They (the Saudis) are spending lots of money. He (the Crown Prince) strongly denies it. He vehemently denies it.”
Trump also said about the murder: “We are not going to give up hundreds of billions of dollars in orders and let Russia and China and everybody else have it. We need to keep oil prices down so they are not going to $100 or $150 a barrel.”
These Trump comments undercut the whole American concept of justice.
A cruel and vicious world is not admissible in court as a reason to kill. Buying our products and keeping the price of gas low does not excuse murder. Denials by the accused should not defer prosecution.
Can you imagine if we used Trump’s logic in court?
The America I believe in holds the wealthy and powerful as equally accountable as the poorest homeless guy. I contend that the evidence overrules any claims of innocence. The world is vicious and cruel only in the way that unfairness and favoritism skews our thinking and actions.
Jonathan Kraut directs a private investigations firm, is the CFO of a private security firm, is the COO at an Acting Conservatory, is a published author, and Democratic Party activist. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal or of other organizations.