The contemporary criminal justice system is far from perfect for many cases are still vulnerable to the impact of biases and prejudices, especially, when racial issues are involved. This trend can be traced not only in the adult criminal justice system but also in the juvenile justice system. In this respect, it is possible to refer to the recent case of Negrete-Vasquez accused of aggravated murder, who has been sent to the adult court, although he was juvenile at the moment, when he committed the crime. In fact, this case may be the manifestation of the existence of racial biases and prejudices and, more important, the case of Tate proves that the contemporary juvenile and criminal justice systems are vulnerable to the impact of racial biases and prejudices, especially when the case of Negrete-Vasquez and Tate are compared to the case of King brothers. At any rate, the participants of the trials are always vulnerable to the impact of the public opinion and mass media as well as their personal beliefs and biases that affect outcomes of criminal cases.
First of all, it is important to dwell briefly upon the Tate case. The Tate case was a jury trial that was conducted in terms of the adult criminal court. The criminal law was violated and Tate was accused of the first degree murder after the murder of a six-years-old girl. In this regard, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that Tate, an African American teen, was sent to the adult court, although he was juvenile, when he committed his crime. Participants of the trial, who make up the work group in the trial were the judge Joel T. Lazarus, Lionel’s lawyer Jim Lewis, the prosecutor Ken Padowitz, and Tiffany’s (victim’s) father Mark James and mother. The parents of the victims were interviewed by mass media in the course of the trial, while participants of the trial, including the jury were vulnerable to the impact of mass media and public opinion.
The outcome of the trial was sentencing of Lionel Tate to life without parole. However, the outcome of the trial may involve racial issues, namely racial biases and prejudices against Tate for King brothers, who murdered their own fathers were not sentenced to death and they were whites, whereas Tate, whose crime was more uncertain compared to that of Kings and, in all probability, unplanned, was sentence to life without parole. The mass media influenced consistently the perception of the trial. At the same time, racial biases and prejudices have had a considerable impact on the perception of the trial as well as its outcome. At this point, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that the Tate’s case was the most severe punishment of the juvenile at the moment.
In this regard, the trial and outcomes of King brothers’ trial was quite different. In fact, King brothers’s case was the jury trial just like the case of Tate. However, King brothers were pled guilty of the third degree murder, although they planned and murdered their father. Objectively, the crime committed by King brothers was not less severe compared to the case of Tate, at the least. The prosecutor was David Rimmer still failed to qualify the crime committed by the brothers as the first degree or aggravated murder. At this point, it is worth mentioning the fact that brothers cooperated in the crime, while Tate committed the crime alone. In such a context, the racial difference seems to be the only cause of such development of the trial. On the other hand, the case involved gay/lesbian rights for Alex considered himself being gay. Eventually, Derek was given eight year sentence, while Alex got seven only compared to life sentence for Tate.
In this regard, the Negrete-Vasquez case proves the impact of racial biases on the juvenile justice system and criminal justice system at large. The Negrete-Vasquez case was one of the most notorious cases that have occurred recently. The Negrette-Vasquez case was the jury trial. Negrete-Vasquez was charged with aggravated murder. At this point, the circumstances of the murder committed by Negrete-Vasquez was similar to the circumstances of the crime committed by King brothers because they also acted together as Negrete-Vasquez acted together with Alejandro Aguilar-Madujano.
Important participants of the trial were the judge Jim Fun, the Chief Deputy District Attorney Rob Bletko, and Alejandro Aguilar-Madujano was also involved in the crime and stabbed the victim along with Negrete-Vasquez. Similarly to other cases were highlighted by mass media. Mass media affected consistently the perception of the trial. However, if mass media posed the question why King brothers murdered their father, than in the case of Negrete-Vasquez mass media (Smith, 2011) depicted the cruelty of the crime.
At the same time, similarly to Tate, Negrete-Vasquez was sent to the adult court that was quite different from the juvenile trial as was the case of King brothers, for instance. In such a way, the judge considered the case of Negrete-Vaques severe enough to be sent to the adult court, while the judge in case of King brothers did not consider the transfer of the case to the adult court being necessary.
Furthermore, the Negrete-Vasquez case involved racial issues for Negrete-Vasquez was Hispanic. In this regard, the Negrete-Vasquez case was similar to the case of Tate. In such a way, the criminal justice system is probably vulnerable to the negative impact of racial biases and prejudices on the criminal justice system, including the juvenile justice system. In this regard, the severe sentences to Negrete-Vasquez and Tate prove that the criminal justice and juvenile justice system is biased. In addition, the impact of the public opinion and mass media also affects consistently outcomes of trials.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that the criminal justice system and juvenile justice system are vulnerable to the impact of biases and stereotypes, including biases and stereotypes related to racial issues.
Braithwaite, J. & Petit, P. (1995). “Not Just Deserts. A Republican Theory of Criminal Justice.” Law and Society Review, Vol. 28, No. 4, pp. 765-776.
Goodnough, A. (December 11, 2003). “Youngster Given Life Term for Killing Gets New Trial,” The New York Times
Smith, E. (2011a). “Court rules 14-year-old will be tried as an adult in Cornelius aggravated murder case,” The Oregonian. Retrieved on November 7, 2011 from <_http://www.oregonlive.com/hillsboro/index.ssf/2011/02/court_rules_14yearoldwill_be_tried_as_an_adult_in_cornelius_aggravated_murder_case.html>
Smith, E. (2011b). “Hillsboro teen becomes one of the youngest in Oregon convicted of aggravated murder,” The Oregonian. Retrieved on November 7, 2011 from <http://www.oregonlive.com/hillsboro/index.ssf/2011/10/washington_county_judge_reache.html>