Thursday, May 08, 2008

Bugs in the American Legal System

As an immigrant from India, I have always been very impressed with the American legal system. In over 17 years, I have not encountered grassroots corruption, have been treated courteously by those in power, and have seen the system work overall in favor of the individual. In particular, I've always seen the punitive damages system as a counter-balancing force that puts the "fear of God" in the minds of the rich & powerful corporations that would otherwise tend to trample the average citizen.

I'm not so sure any more after I heard this program on NPR's Fresh Air today: Reporter Explores America's Unique Take on Justice

It discusses the news series in New York Times, by Adam Liptak, called American Exceptions.

The highlights of the series so far are:

Inmate Count in U.S. Dwarfs Other Nations’
The U.S. has less than 5 percent of the world’s population but almost a quarter of its prisoners.

Foreign Courts Wary of U.S. Punitive Damages
For most of the rest of the world, allowing separate awards meant to punish the defendant is a terrible idea.

Illegal Globally, Bail for Profit Remains in U.S.
Bail bondsmen, who post bail for people accused of crimes in exchange for a fee, are all but unknown outside the U.S.

Serving Life for Providing Car to Killers
An American legal doctrine makes accomplices as liable as the killer for murders committed during felonies.

Lifers as Teenagers, Now Seeking Second Chance
The U.S. stands alone in the world in convicting adolescents as adults and sentencing them to life.

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Is the world upside down?

Is the world upside down?
It's a topsy-turvy world out there!