- Magna Carta
- Lawes Divine
- Sarah Good
Individuals living in England in the early thirteenth century lived in a feudal society. The king granted favors to his subjects in return for their loyalty and obedience. His subjects and, most of all, the king himself believed the Almighty God gave him the right to rule. The king's law was the law of the land. No earthly document or written law was above what the king declared as lawful and just.
King John, who reigned from 1199 through 1216, abused his power. He demanded of his land barons (wealthy noblemen) unreasonably high payment fees, took away their property and possessions, and imprisoned anyone who did not cooperate with him. By 1215 the land barons had quite enough of King John. Threatening civil war, the barons wrote down their grievances and the remedies they demanded. King John reluctantly signed the document on June 15, 1215, in Runnymede Meadow on the banks of the River Thames.
The document signed at Runnymede was never intended to be a grand and sweeping new declaration of English principles of law. It was a quick agreement to end a political crisis between the king and...
(The entire section is 660 words.)
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Excerpt from the Magna Carta
Original Magna Carta published in 1215
Reprinted from Magna Carta: Manuscripts and Myths by Claire Breay
Published in 2002
"No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we [English royalty] proceed with force against him or send others to do so except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land." An English document drawn up in 1215, the Magna Carta became known as the first written guarantee of basic civil liberties and was held up as a protection for Englishmen against excessive royal power for centuries. Clauses 39 and 40 of the Magna Carta, quoted above, evolved into the cornerstone of the American criminal justice system—due process of law, meaning legal procedures must be followed fairly, and trial by jury. These basic legal concepts were later incorporated into the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights in order to protect and uphold the civil liberties of U.S. citizens.
Surprisingly, the original purpose of the Magna Carta was neither grand nor visionary. It...
(The entire section is 3555 words.)
Excerpt from "Lawes Divine, Morall and Martiall"
Original "Lawes Divine" published in 1611
Reprinted from Tracts and Other Papers Relating Principally to Origin, Settlement, and Progress of the Colonies of North America from the Discovery of the Country to the Year 1776, edited by Peter Smith
Published in 1947
The Magna Carta officially became part of English law in 1297 and was used to defend against abuse of power by English royalty. The Magna Carta was put to its strongest test in the first half of the 1600s during the rule of King James I from 1603 to 1625 and Charles I, who ruled from 1625 to 1649. Both were from the House of Stuart and reasserted a king's right to absolute power over his subjects. Each believed his ruling power came directly from God, not from the consent of the people and certainly not from a written document like the Magna Carta.
In 1606 it was King James who granted the Virginia Company of London a charter to recruit individuals for settlement of the new land called Virginia. The officers of the Virginia Company ruled over the Virginia settlements until 1624 when King James revoked their charter for not making enough money. From the initial settlement at Jamestown in 1607, the Church of England, overseen by King James,...
(The entire section is 3782 words.)
Excerpt from the "Examination of Sarah Good"
Reprinted from The Salem Witchcraft Papers: Verbatim Transcripts of the Legal Documents of the Salem Witchcraft Outbreak of 1692, edited by Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum
Seventeenth century colonists believed in witches, as did their European ancestors. The Great European Witch Hunt occurred from the fifteenth through the seventeenth centuries. Belief in magic and witchcraft was widespread in the American colonies. It was normal to profess a strong faith in the Almighty God and at the same time to employ magical charms and potions to ward off witches and the devil. Relatively few individuals, however, were accused of witchcraft and fewer still were prosecuted and executed. Accusations were often dismissed, or those convicted received light sentences. The exception played out in New England in the early 1690s. The most famous American witch hunt occurred from May through October 1692 in Salem Town, Essex County, Massachusetts.
The English began...
(The entire section is 3555 words.)
Foundations of Criminal Justice
- James Madison
- Charles Dickens
- George W. Wickersham
From the birth of the nation at the time of the American Revolution (1775–83) until the early part of the twentieth century, the various parts of the American criminal justice system, including courts, policing, and prisons, gradually developed at the federal and state levels. These loosely coordinated segments of the criminal justice system have been responsible for apprehending, investigating, determining guilt, imposing sentences, and carrying out punishments of criminal offenders.
Prior to the American Revolution, no distinct American legal system existed. Each colony operated independently. Criminal codes, punishments, and courts varied from colony to colony. By the time of the Revolution, reformers wanted to establish a more unified and professional legal system. With the country's founders crafting a constitution for the new nation, a unique opportunity was presented to not only provide uniformity, but also to make sure the colonists' hard won liberties would not be lost to the new federal and state governments.
The U.S. Constitution gave the federal government...
(The entire section is 691 words.)
Excerpt from "Amendments to the Constitution"
Delivered by James Madison on June 8, 1789, to the House of Representatives
Reprinted from The Papers of James Madison, edited by Charles F. Hobson and Robert A. Rutland
Published in 1979
James Madison of colonial Virginia is considered the father of the U.S. Constitution. Madison fought hard for the recognition and protection of individual rights in the new nation's legal framework. He also supported the need for a strong central government. As a result, Madison sought a delicate balance between a strong and effective central federal government and the basic freedoms of citizens from potentially oppressive government rule.
Madison formed his beliefs on individual liberties from government actions while serving in various political roles during the American Revolution (1775–83). With war underway, Madison served in the 1776 Virginia Convention that drew up the state's declaration of rights and a new state constitution. From 1778 to 1779 he served on the Virginia Council of State that guided actions of the new governor.
(The entire section is 3047 words.)
Excerpt from American Notes
Reprinted from Charles Dickens: American Notes for General Circulation, edited by Patricia Ingham
Originally published in 1842; excerpt taken from 2000 reprint
With the U.S. Constitution protecting American citizens from cruel and unusual punishment, a search for more humane forms of punishment began in the late 1800s. The idea of incarceration had been in use since the late 1700s, but by the early 1800s two different types of prison systems were being tried in the United States. One was known as the "Philadelphia" plan and the other, the "Auburn" plan. They were named after the cities where two new state prisons were located—in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Auburn, New York.
Under the Philadelphia plan, also known as the Separate System, prisoners were kept isolated in their cells both day and night. They were allowed certain books, especially the Bible, and sometimes allowed to perform certain handcrafts. Most of all they were left to think about their crimes. Food was pushed into the cell through hatches. Prisoners never saw or spoke with...
(The entire section is 3140 words.)
Wickersham, George W.
Excerpt from The Problem of Law Enforcement
An address by George W. Wickersham on April 16, 1931
Published by the National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement, 1931
The 1920s were a particularly trying time for the U.S. criminal justice system. The introduction of Prohibition by passage of the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1919 introduced a new crime wave. Prohibition meant that no longer could people legally sell, transport, or possess alcoholic beverages. A black market for liquor immediately developed as the public's thirst for alcohol did not diminish though the availability did.
With so much money to be made by supplying illegal liquor, the influence of organized crime grew. The criminal justice system seemed incapable of responding effectively as some criminals like Al Capone (1899–1947) achieved celebrity status. Much money could also be made in local law enforcement—through bribes and corruption. Public respect for the criminal justice system declined to an all-time low.
President Herbert Hoover (1874–1964; served 1929–33) won the...
(The entire section is 3017 words.)
. . .80 Harrison Act
. . .88 Prohibition
. . .98
Since the first European settlements in North America in the early seventeenth century, governments in America have tried to regulate morality. The early colonists equated sin with crime. Such offenses as blasphemy (showing a lack of reverence toward God), heresy (holding a belief that conflicts with church doctrine), and adultery (sex between two adults, one of whom is married to another) were considered criminal acts and dealt with by sometimes severe punishments.
Actions and behavior that do not conform to accepted standards of what is considered right or wrong are called public order crimes. Such behavior is seen as disruptive to daily life. They are also called vice crimes or moral offenses. Social standards, or morals, can change through time triggering changes in criminal law. The colonies had "blue laws," so called because they were printed on blue paper, banning certain activities such as work on Sundays.
Blue laws in Europe even enforced what people could eat or wear on Sundays according to their social status. Moral offenses decreased over time as the public accepted that certain forms of social deviation, though...
(The entire section is 837 words.)
Excerpt from the Comstock Law
Reprinted from The Statutes at Large and Proclamations of the United States of America from March 1871 to March 1873, Vol. XVII. Edited by George P. Sanger
Published in 1873
Sexual morality has long played an important role in U.S. criminal justice history even as many other Western countries have decreased emphasis on these kinds of moral offenses. Sexual crimes are those activities that the local community finds offensive. During the late 1870s a national campaign was mounted to legislate public morality. As new advances in birth control were made through the nineteenth century, interest steadily grew. By the 1870s a wide variety of birth control methods were readily available in pharmacies throughout the nation.
Abortion, too, remained free of legal restriction in many areas. The easy public access to birth control information and devices attracted the opposition of Anthony Comstock (1844–1915) and others. Believing access to birth control promoted greater sexual activity outside of marriage, they lobbied Congress to pass a bill...
(The entire section is 2131 words.)
Excerpt from the Harrison Narcotic Drug Act of 1914
Reprinted from The Statutes at Large and Proclamations of the United States of America from March 1913 to March 1915. Vol. XXXVIII, Part 1 Published in 1915
Prior to the twentieth century few restrictions were placed on drug trade and use. Opium and cocaine flowed freely into the United States. Drug abuse was considered more a public health problem than a criminal activity. Drugs such as opium and cocaine were common in medicines. Opium, which affects the brain and spinal cord, had been a painkiller and sedative for centuries. Opium and cocaine were also used to fight depression, relieve chronic pain, serve as an anesthetic, settle intestinal disorders, and relieve a variety of other afflictions.
Cocaine was even used as an ingredient in wine and Coca Cola. Other drugs were processed from opium, such as morphine, a major pain-fighting drug for the wounded in the American Civil War (1861–65; war in the United States between the Union [North], who was opposed to slavery, and the Confederacy [South], who was in favor of slavery). Drugs derived from opium are called opiates. In 1898 a process to derive heroin from opium was discovered, becoming the most additive opiate of all.
(The entire section is 2920 words.)
Excerpt from the Eighteenth Amendment—Prohibition of Intoxicating Liquors
Adopted on January 29, 1919
Reprinted from the Findlaw Web site at http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data/constitution/amendments1...
Alcohol is the most frequently used drug in the United States. Rum was often present in community gatherings in the early colonial settlements. Concern began to rise over those who drank too much. Laws were passed focusing on alcohol abuse and its disruptive effects on small communities. A call for a ban on alcohol grew throughout the nineteenth century among social workers, clergy, and others part of what were called temperance movements.
By the 1870s organizations such as the Women's Christian Temperance Union crusaded around the nation promoting the prohibition of alcohol. Another key national group, the Anti-Saloon League, joined the fight for prohibition in the 1890s.
Passage of the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution banning the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages came in January 1919. To put the amendment into effect, Congress passed the Volstead Act in October 1919. The act expanded the prohibition to include beer and wine as well as hard...
(The entire section is 1197 words.)
. . .106 Clarence Darrow
. . .118
Execution as a criminal punishment has been a part of U.S. history since the early colonial days of the seventeenth century. It is a story of changing methods based on what the public considers the most effective deterrent to future criminals, as well as what is considered sufficiently humane. There is also a long history of debate over the morality of taking human lives.
Capital punishments were harsh in colonial times. Though hanging was the most common method of execution, other methods—including burning alive, beheadings, and being crushed under a stack of stones—were also used. Whipping was the most common form of noncapital punishment. All of these punishments were carried out in public places and witnessed by large crowds. By the early nineteenth century hanging became the accepted form of execution over the more brutal types since the U.S. Constitution's Eighth Amendment prohibited cruel and unusual punishment. Executions were also moved out of public viewing and into the newly built state prisons.
Execution continues to be among the most controversial moral issues in criminal justice. Many considered hanging an
(The entire section is 530 words.)
Excerpt from "Far Worse Than Hanging"
Reprinted from the New York Times Published in the August 7, 1890, edition, on the front page
William Kemmler was a vegetable peddler in the slums of Buffalo, New York. An alcoholic, on March 29, 1888, he was recovering from a drinking binge the night before when he became enraged with his girlfriend, Tillie Ziegler. He accused her of stealing from him and preparing to runaway with a friend of his. When the argument reached a peak, Kemmler calmly went to the barn, grabbed a hatchet, and returned to the house. He struck Tillie repeatedly, killing her. He then went to a neighbor's house and announced he had just murdered his girlfriend.
Kemmler's resulting murder trial proceeded quickly. He was convicted of first-degree murder on May 10. Three days later he was sentenced to death, destined to be the first person executed in an electric chair under New York's new execution law replacing hanging with electrocution. A chair was ready at the Auburn state prison. The leading developers of electrical power, including George Westinghouse, did not want to see their new product used in this manner. A lawyer filed an appeal claiming the electric chair violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.
(The entire section is 4291 words.)
Excerpt from "The Plea of Clarence Darrow"
Reprinted from The Amazing Crime and Trial of Leopold and Loeb, edited by Maureen McKernan
Published in 1996
Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold were nineteen years old, exceptionally bright students, and from wealthy families. Loeb was a handsome University of Chicago student and Leopold an ornithologist (person who studies birds). The Leopolds were wealthy German Jewish immigrants who made their fortune shipping grains and minerals on the Great Lakes.
Nathan entered college at age sixteen and graduated from University of Chicago in 1923 with high honors. He was taking law classes with plans to attend Harvard Law School. Richard's father was a millionaire executive in charge of the massive Sears-Roebuck mail order business. Richard was a brilliant child, graduating from high school at age fourteen and becoming one of the youngest graduates in University of Michigan history, at age seventeen.
Their lives, however, would take a dramatic and tragic turn on Wednesday, May 21, 1924. That...
(The entire section is 4245 words.)
White-Collar and Organized Crime
. . .134 RICO
. . .147
Two major categories of crime attracted considerable attention from the U.S. criminal justice system during the twentieth century and posed far greater costs to society than usual street crime. They were white-collar crime and organized crime. Both involved illegal activities through enterprises. An enterprise is a group of associated individuals such as a business partnership, corporation, or union. The key difference between the two is that white-collar criminals try to profit off of legitimate businesses in a nonviolent way, while organized crime seeks profits through illegal businesses and frequently employs physical intimidation and violence. In addition, white-collar crime can involve one person or a group of individuals. Organized crime usually employs a large number of crime bosses and members.
White-collar crime is one of the most costly crimes to society. Near the end of the twentieth century white-collar crime was costing U.S. businesses some $400 billion a year, or about 6 percent of total revenue in the nation. White-collar crime is illegal activity conducted within what are normally legal business transactions. They can involve banking, stock trading,
(The entire section is 528 words.)
Sherman Antitrust Act
Excerpt from the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890
Reprinted from The Statutes at Large and Proclamations of the United States of America from December, 1889, to March, 1891, Vol. XXVI
Published in 1891
Since 1890 the Sherman Antitrust Act has been the key law representing America's commitment to a free market economy. A free market economy, one where competition operates free from private or government restraints, assures the best goods and services at the lowest prices for consumers. The Sherman Antitrust Act outlaws any business "combination" or "conspiracy" that unreasonably restrains trade or commerce between states and foreign nations.
In the act, restraining trade or commerce means hindering or preventing competition. Agreements or "conspiracies" among competitors to fix prices, rig a bidding process for a contract, or divide up a customer base are all examples of illegal competition. The act also forbids a company to "monopolize or attempt to monopolize" a product or service by using unreasonable or unfair methods. A business monopoly is the complete control over the manufacture and distribution of a product, or control of a service by one company thereby eliminating competition.
(The entire section is 3946 words.)
Excerpt from the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act of 1970
Reprinted from United States Statutes at Large, 1970–1971, Volume 84, Part 1
Published in 1971
Organized crime is defined as any group that has an organized structure of bosses, advisors, and committed working members whose key goal is to obtain money and property through illegal activities. Organized crime groups thrive on supplying goods and services that are not legally available but for which a large number of people are willing to pay. Gambling, prostitution, pornography, and dealing in illegal drugs have long been moneymakers for organized crime.
At the beginning of the twenty-first century drug trafficking was the largest illegal organized crime activity in the United States and worldwide. The term "trafficking" means dealing in illegal drugs—smuggling, buying with the intent to sell, and selling. The money received is called "dirty" money and needs to be "laundered." Money laundering means banking and investing the dirty money through a complicated series of financial networks until it can no longer be traced and appears to be legally earned or "clean" money invested in legal businesses. Money laundering is another key activity of organized crime groups.
(The entire section is 2393 words.)
Protection of Minorities and Youth
. . .160 PROTECT Act
. . .173
The first portion of this chapter, historical in nature, deals with one of the most significant legal battles in the early twentieth century. The Scottsboro trials stood as examples of minority treatment in the criminal justice system. The second portion of the chapter deals with a highly significant child protection law, the PROTECT Act of 2003. PROTECT includes the AMBER Alert, used to rescue abducted children.
At the beginning of the 1930s most black Americans in the United States lived in extreme poverty, particularly in the South. Southern slavery had ended only a few generations earlier. Racism in the 1920s remained woven into every aspect of life in the United States and was freely expressed in public. What were known as Jim Crow laws were well entrenched. These state laws, predominately found in the South, enforced racial segregation in almost every facet of life—restaurants, theaters, hotels, even water fountains and restrooms.
In 1897 the U.S. Supreme Court had put its approval on segregation by asserting that the required separation did not violate the constitutional rights of blacks as long as they were given access to equal facilities. In reality, the "separate but...
(The entire section is 681 words.)
Excerpt from "Scottsboro Case Goes to the Jury"
Reprinted from the New York Times
Published on January 23, 1936
"It takes courage to do the right thing in the face of public clamor for the wrong thing, but when justice is not administered fairly, . . . there is no protection for any one, man or woman, black or white." These words were spoken in January 1936 by defense attorney C. L. Watts at the fourth trial of Haywood Patterson, one of nine young black men known as the Scottsboro Boys, accused of raping two white women. The words struck at the heart of a criminal justice system heavily biased against black Americans. Watts urged the all white jury "to do the right thing" in spite of heavy public pressure for a guilty decision. The "right thing" in Watts's thinking was to deliver a not-guilty verdict.
History of the Scottsboro Boys
In 1931 it was common for the unemployed to hitch rides on trains and travel from town to town in search of a job, adventure, or a way home. On March 25, nine young black men jumped on board a Southern Railroad pulling out...
(The entire section is 3968 words.)
Excerpt from the PROTECT Act of 2003
Reprinted from the U.S. Government Printing Office Access Web site at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/index.html
"No family should ever have to endure the nightmare of losing a child. Our nation grieves with every family that has suffered unbearable loss. And our nation will fight threats against our children. . . . And now it is my honor to sign the PROTECT Act of 2003." President George W. Bush (1946–; served 2001–) made this statement in the White House Rose Garden immediately before signing into law the Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to End the Exploitation of Children Today Act of 2003. The short title of the law, Public Law 108-21, is the PROTECT Act of 2003. The PROTECT Act is the most far reaching child protection legislation signed in decades.
Looking on was Donna Hagerman Norris and Elizabeth Smart and her parents. Norris is the mother of Amber Hagerman (1986–1996) who was kidnapped and brutally murdered in 1996. Fifteen-year-old Elizabeth Smart was abducted from...
(The entire section is 2932 words.)
. . .188 U.S. State Department
. . .201 Al Qaeda
. . .214
Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack (known as 9/11) on the United States, the U.S. government named its number one mission as protecting the homeland from future terrorist actions. Prior to 9/11 there was no comprehensive plan for such a mission; immediately after the terrorist attacks the government began developing a plan and the practical steps needed to achieve it.
President George W. Bush (1945–; served 2001–) declared a "War on Terrorism." The American people, industry, and government leaders and agencies focused and cooperated to a degree not seen since World War II (1939–45). Congress passed the USA Patriot Act on October 25, 2001, to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute terrorists and those who gave them support.
An unprecedented coordinated effort between local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, intelligence agencies, and private industry to share information improved protection for the nation's infrastructure. This infrastructure includes both physical and virtual or electronic networks. Physical networks include airline...
(The entire section is 663 words.)
Freeh, Louis J.
Excerpt from "Speech by Louis J. Freeh, Director of the FBI, 1997 International Computer Crime Conference, New York, New York, March 4, 1997"
Reprinted from Cyber Terrorism and Information Warfare: 1. Assessment and Challenges, edited by Yonah Alexander and Michael S. Swetnam
Published in 1999
By the 1990s computer systems had become a critical operating component for governments and private business. The Internet, a computer network for information and electronic mail, allowed for almost instantaneous worldwide communication. Any disruption of a computer system in either governments or businesses brought a virtual halt to operations until the problems could be corrected.
The following excerpt is from "Speech by Louis J. Freeh, Director of the FBI, 1997 International Computer Crime Conference, New York, New York, March 4, 1997." Realizing that rapid advances in computer technology had not only benefited the world's population but also was an aid to those wishing to engage in criminal activity, Freeh praised leaders of private industry and law enforcement agencies for gathering together to discuss cyber crime issues. The conference involved individuals from the United States and from around the world.
(The entire section is 4543 words.)
U.S. State Department
Excerpt from "Patterns of Global Terrorism—2002"
Reprinted from Terrorism: Documents of International and Local Control, Volume 39, U.S. Perspectives, edited by James Walsh
Published in 2003
Although post-9/11 many important reports on terrorism have been issued, the U.S. State Department's annual assessment has long been considered the government's most important public report on terrorism. U.S. law requires the Department of State to provide Congress with an annual report on global terrorism. The report must give a complete assessment of foreign countries where significant terrorist actions occurred, must report on countries known to support terrorism, and must assess worldwide terrorist organizations. U.S. law also requires the report to describe how countries cooperate with the United States to apprehend, convict, and punish terrorists who attack U.S. citizens or interests, as well as how countries attempt to prevent future terrorist acts.
The following excerpt from "Patterns of Global Terrorism—2002" is part of the introduction written by Cofer Black, State Department...
(The entire section is 4237 words.)
Excerpt from "The Al Qaeda Training Manual"
Reprinted from Terrorism: Documents of International and Local Control, Volume 39, U.S. Perspectives, edited by James Walsh
Published in 2003
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the United States was involved in a long struggle to protect the nation's homeland and American interests abroad from terrorism. The threat of terrorism was an ever-changing enemy involving America in a new kind of war. The enemy was not a specific government of a specific country. Terrorist threats take many forms and aim at many different targets. The enemy has many hiding places and, more often than not, is invisible. Terrorist threats have only one common element, they aim at America's "vulnerabilities," weaknesses they find in U.S. defenses or in U.S. preparedness.
Since 9/11 the U.S. government's top priority has been the prevention of terrorist attacks. The United States has had to plan defenses for many types of terrorist methods—bombings, hostage taking, assassinations, and even cyber attacks. The U.S. government treats all terrorist threats or action as criminal activity.
(The entire section is 4949 words.)