Does social class or status have an effect on whether or not a person is convicted of a crime?
If a person is convicted of a crime, does their social class or status factor into how severe their punishment is?
These are two very big questions that bring up some interesting points. Take for example the trial of O.J Simpson in the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson. Simpson was able to talk prosecutors out of potentially giving him the death penalty due to the fact that his “pockets were deeper” than those of the prosecution. Many people who are accused of murder are not able to so easily avoid the death penalty, regardless of their race. Despite Simpson being a minority (African-American), his social status was that of a celebrity, meaning he was very wealthy and had the means to adequately defend himself. Many defendants who are minorities do not have those types of means. This is also an example of social class being of higher priority than minority status. Simpson’s master status was clearly that of a celebrity, rather than an African-American, and therefore allowed him to receive special treatment. Because of the wealth and resources that Simpson and his legal team were able to accumulate, they were able to project reasonable doubt onto the jury, which lead to his acquittal. According to one of these articles, “systems of crime control socially construct selectively enforced and differentially applied norms to social groups, according to relationships of power, status, and authority” (Barak). This can be interpreted as the criminal justice system having the ability to decide the harshness or the form of punishment based on the authority, social class, status, or power of an individual, regardless of the crime committed.
Does this make for a “just” criminal justice system? Why or why not?
Here are two articles that discuss more about social class in the criminal justice system:
Also, here is a picture to illustrate wealthy social class privilege: