Jewish Journal


July 19, 2013

Justice Is Not Always Moral



By Harriet Rossetto

The Zimmerman case has confronted us, once again, with a basic flaw in our judicial system. “Justice” is the result of what is legal, not what is moral. Due process is not to be tainted by issues of right and wrong—this is irrelevant! I heard Justice Anthony Scalia say (with my own ears) that if someone is convicted and sentenced to die, proof of his innocence cannot be considered if due process was honored.

Ekow N. Yankah captured “The Truth about Trayvon” in today’s NY Times. Racial disparity cannot be mentioned in the court of law although it is always the Big White Elephant (excuse the racial metaphor) in the room. He points out wisely that “reasonable doubt” and “reasonable suspicion” cannot, by definition, be free of bias. Despite the legal instructions to the jury to disregard their feelings, their certainties and doubts are rooted in their conditioning and personal experiences. We are not color blind. The same evening I heard Justice Scalia say that innocence or guilt is irrelevant in a court of law, I heard Rabbi Adin Steinsoltz talk about Jewish justice; a justice that includes both mercy and morality; a justice more restorative than retributive.

There is no justice without morality, without the nuances of right and wrong. Justifiable or non-justifiable can only take place in the Higher Court. As a person of conscience, I am horrified by a system of justice where due process overrides innocence, where moral monsters escape consequence.

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