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shared3's avatar

In Criminal Justice Ethics, can a legally justified decision still be wrong ethically/morally?

Asked by shared3 (921 points ) June 28th, 2009

I’m taking an introductory course to Criminal Justice Ethics, and my first essay question asks me to discuss whether a court decision is justified. Can I make the case that legally, the decision is justified, but morally/ethically, the decision is not?

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13 Answers

DrasticDreamer's avatar

Yes, you absolutely can argue that point for your paper. I actually think it’s a really good topic for an essay, so go for it. :)

cyn's avatar

I agree with @DrasticDreamer :)

MrMeltedCrayon's avatar

I agree with @DrasticDreamer 100%!

It makes me think of the book Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton.

EmpressPixie's avatar

Yes of course. You can always look to US history (or your own nation’s history if not the US) to see examples of it. Slavery is a good place to start—it was certainly legal, as were punishments that were a part of it and treatment of escaped slaves—but we don’t consider it ethical anymore. Or, more modern, I believe that many of the decisions regarding gay marriage are not ethically and morally correct.

Brown v. Topeka Board of education was all about this in a way—it was a landmark case because it set the standard that we wouldn’t allow a moral/ethical wrong to continue.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

Yes, you can. The burden of legal proof is based upon matching rules and tests that uphold the laws/constitution of the state or the United States. Are you guilty beyond reasonable doubt based upon what the laws say? Did you do it or not? How sure is a jury based upon the instructions given by the judge? It’s a yes or no decision.

Moral and ethical decisions are based upon an individual’s personal code of beliefs. This is not what a jury is asked to decide. Moral and ethical decisions are not always yes or no.

TheWatcher's avatar

Ah that is a difficult question, you might want to look at the works of henry thoreau. He makes a big just arguement about this topic.

juwhite1's avatar

You can legally spread lies/gossip/rumors about others simply because you heard them from someone else (and therefore did not absolutely know that what you were saying was untrue). That’s certainly immoral, but it is legal. There are plenty of ways to legally steal from others. That doesn’t make it right. The government can legally take you home and pay you less than its value. Legal, but wrong. You can get away with murder by simply placing one small doubt in the mind of one juror. Again, legal, but morally wrong. I think as a society, we do the best we can to promote justice, but there are always loopholes, and there are always odd cases here and there.

Darwin's avatar

Absolutely. It happens all the time. The law is an attempt to formalize morality and ethics, but since what is moral and what is ethical varies so greatly from individual to individual it can be and often is legal but not morally right. Law and justice are not the same thing.

TheWatcher's avatar

Aye. It’s like asking.
If there is a law that you believe is unjust and unmoral, do you have to follow it? Or does it give you a right to break it?

Jeruba's avatar

Yes. That is why we have the expressions “the letter of the law” and “the spirit of the law.”

whitenoise's avatar

Definitely. In The Netherlands we have euthanasia as a legal option, which I am very grateful for, but which is looked upon by many as a moral and ethical atrocity.

Also, there are many governments and legal systems that are in themselves ethically unsound. During the second world war, for instance, people in many European countries were legally bound to report jews they knew to be in hiding. I think we all agree that obeying such law is unethical and immoral as well.

walterallenhaxton's avatar

I don’t even know if it is legally justified but the courts treat any money in a bankers possession as his money. I find that to be unethical and criminal. When I put money into a bank for a particular reason I am not making it a gift to the bank.
The tax man does not seem to think so either.

Zuma's avatar

Yes, of course. I have a blog on Justice where I have discuss several Designer Laws, which the dominant groups in our society have enacted in order to use the law and the criminal justice system to turn less favored groups into second-class citizens. This is actually quite a problem in our system.

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