American Justice

There are times when the US seems like a third-world country run by a tinpot dictator with no sense of the rule of law. The latest high-profile case from American courts has a bizarre ending that makes the justice system look silly.

Mexican drug lord Joaquin Guzman has been sentenced in a  New York courtroom. He is naturally saying he didn’t receive a fair trial. That was to be expected after a guilty verdict. It is the length of the sentence that has me shaking my head.

For his crimes Guzman has been sentenced to life in prison – plus an additional thirty years.

Really? After he dies they will hold onto his corpse for an additional 30 years, just to make a point? Will he care?

I understand that serious crimes demand serious penalties. And, despite what Guzman says, I doubt there were irregularities with the trial. In such a high-profile case prosecutors would do their best to ensure proper procedure and a fair trial. The last thing they would want was for the accused to be freed on a technicality – that would be far worse than a “not guilty” verdict.

However, there should be reality in sentencing. No matter how heinous the crime, tacking additional years onto a life sentence just seems silly.

Now, before you jump at me and say I don’t understand, that the 30 years isn’t consecutive but a concurrent sentence, none of the news stories I looked at indicated that. It was life, plus 30 years.

This isn’t Canada where concurrent sentences are common. This is the US, where convicted Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols is at this moment serving the first of his 161 consecutive life sentences. I suspect once Nichols dies the rest of his sentences will be commuted so the state doesn’t have to preserve his remains for a millennium.

I wonder if Americans understand that the rest of the world is laughing at them and their justice system? I wonder if they care?

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