Defense Attorneys John Adams and John Quincy Adams stood before a Boston courtroom packed not only with judges and jury members, but also with the hundreds of angry townspeople.
In the most highly politicized trial and arguably the most essential case in American history up to that date, Adams and Quincy Adams stood alone defending a British officer and British soldiers accused of the murder of multiple protestors. Despite death threats, the firebombing of John Adams’ law office and social persecution for taking the case, both men rose in defense of the social outcasts seen as symbols of British tyranny oppressing the newly founded colonies.
Standing for opening statements on behalf of the soldiers, John Quincy Adams would utter the most important opening statement to the jury that would resonate throughout American history.
“About some five or six years ago … measures were alternately taken in Great Britain that awakened jealousy, resentment, fortitude, and vigilance … that our dearest rights were invaded … These are concerns … we must keep far away from us when in a court of law. It poisons justice when politics tinctures its current. You are not sitting here as statesmen or politicians. You have nothing to do with the injuries your country has sustained.”
Historian and author of “John Adams Under Fire” Dan Abrams notes how Adams would later write in his legal notes that “Representative government and trial by jury are the heart and lungs of liberty. Without them, we have no other fortification against being ridden like horses, fleeced like sheep, worked like cattle, and fed and clothed like swine and hounds.”
Any preconceived notions adopted before the trial were to be left at the courtroom doors, advocated Adams and Quincy Adams. Politics and biases against the accused, no matter what was printed or said during that dire time before the Revolutionary War, could not be used to taint the eventual verdict of the biggest and most polarizing trial of their lifetimes.
Fast-forward now to over 250 years later. Has the American justice system held up to that standard?
No. No it has not.
In State Of Minnesota V. Derek Chauvin, despite the verdict, one can not deny the politics tainting the case even before a verdict was rendered.
Representative Maxine Waters called individuals to action, saying that if Chauvin was not convicted, people should take to the streets to get “more confrontational,” even despite ongoing riots leaving cities across the U.S. burning.
Even President Biden weighed in on the case before due process could be fully established when he announced to the world on Twitter he was “praying” for the “right verdict.”
This is not to mention how progressive prosecutors dropped arson charges of many summer “protestors” while Vice President Kamala Harris raised bail funds for them.
Fast-forward a year later, when Americans find themselves again exposed to the divisive case of State Of Wisconsin V. Kyle Rittenhouse. Republicans and former President Donald Trump have rallied in Rittenhouse’s defense, using the case as a political weapon to support the idea of assault rifles being used for “self-defense.” Additionally, without any evidence whatsoever, Biden propelled the narrative of how 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse was a “white supremacist.”
Rittenhouse had raised $586,940 between August and January 2020, with some donations being from government officials and others in power, reports The Guardian.
The state of Iowa is no exception to the politicization of American courtrooms. In State of Iowa V. Cristhian Bahena Rivera, again Republicans and then President Trump used the case to spew harsh criticism of immigrants and used it to prove the alleged “violence” that could ensue by allowing more immigrants in the states.
As American court cases become more and more like theater for social media outlets laced with political fuel to issue yet another talking point for yet another politician, when will such statements cross the line of justice for the accused? Who is to rule out the very real possibility of out-of-court statements from those of high authority influencing the jury in a decision, especially when said juries are not sequestered from media attention?
The assertion that “These are just high profile cases that will happen here and there, it is a given that politics will occur,” is utter hogwash that reveals pure ignorance to the rights of the accused.
Chief Chicago Public Defender Gerald W. Getty asserts in his book “Public Defender” that as long as one defendant’s rights are violated, then that case is to the detriment of all Americans who are accused. In other words, Americans are all doomed if mob rule and overzealous prosecutors use politics to render a specific verdict.
Former federal prosecutor and Congressman Trey Gowdy brings to light the parasitic issue embedded in today’s society: In a time of social media and political hyperpartisanship, Americans are forced to make decisions and opinions quickly for current events. How is it, then, that people can trust our judicial system to play out with this type of mentality of everyday Americans, let alone those who are willing to infiltrate the building blocks of our criminal justice system of due process by using positions of power to sway the populace when said due process hasn’t even occurred?
Referencing again to the Boston Massacre trial, Historian Dan Abrams continues in his book asserting how, “If the legal system could be bent to achieve a desired political outcome, any liberty that came of it would be worthless.”
Republicans and Progressives must end the partisanship of our courtrooms before the hyperpartisanship of political warfare bleeds any more into the precious belief of due process of all defendants in the criminal justice system.