The Boston Massacre: The Colonial Age Of The American Criminal Justice System

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The Colonial age of criminal age gave way to the Nineteenth Century period. During this transition the focus on freedom from Great Britain transformed into a greater focus on freedom of the individual. This freedom of the individual was a freedom of economic and social movement. The clearest illustration of this transition is the Revolutionary War that roughly began in 1776. The Revolutionary war was the ultimate signal that the colonies attempts to gain freedom from Great Britain. However, the rise of the criminal justice system’s focuses on freedom of the individual began before the Revolutionary War began. The trial of the Boston Massacre provides an excellent view into the changing times of the American criminal justice system. The Boston…show more content…
First, the judges, who were loyalist to the crown, delayed the trial substantially. This delay allowed for the tension in the Boston to subside and reason to prevail. This is in direct contrast to the Salem Witch Trials, where the accused would be tried almost immediately in a frenzy of hysteria. Second, and probably more important, the British soldiers were afforded defense counsel, a relatively new concept to the justice system. The soldiers were granted to hire John Adams as counsel, a very respected lawyer in Boston at the time. Previously, the defendant was on his or her own in defending against charges. In the worst cases, like Salem, it was the accused against an entire community. Although defense counsel was not provided by the court, as a modern public defender is, the defendants were permitted to have legal representation defend against the charges. Third, there was an actual jury selection process. This process gave defense counsel an opportunity to ensure a fair trial. Last, the trial demonstrates a trend in the criminal justice system to grant the accused a presumption of innocence. There was not the modern reasonable doubt standard, but Adams advocated strongly for the jury to recognize the defendants’ innocence until proven otherwise. These procedural changes represent the rise of the freedom of the individual in the criminal…show more content…
People enter a social contract with one another and that contract must be equal for all. To reach this goal, laws must be clear to all and free from judicial interpretation, and punishments must be proportionate to crimes. Baccira differed from the colonial perceptions that punishments are based on divine mandate, instead asserting that punishments are a human invention, a product of the social contract. Further, Baccaria opposed capital punishment because it served as a weak deterrence of crime. Baccaria’s teachings required advocate for change in the criminal justice system, and the criminal justice system in the nineteenth century made various attempts to do
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