Guilty By Assumption

Stanford students are known to possess a sense of intellectual vitality. Tell us about an idea or experience that you found intellectually engaging.

The smell of clear hair gel, shoe polish, and satisfaction trails down the hall quickly on the heels of the prosecutor as he exits the room. He is followed a moment later by the scent of off-brand detergent, weak coffee, and defeat shuffling alongside the defense attorney. Over his shoulder hangs a worn leather satchel holding countless papers about his client, who has just been found guilty of all charges.

For the rest of the day, I can’t get out of my head how slanted everything seems towards the prosecutor. All the meetings I saw that day even made me think that there might be a minimum height requirement for the job. Maybe the government believes that prosecutors need to make 25% more than public defenders in order to cover the tailoring costs of having their pants lengthened. Somehow, I doubt that this is the reason for the widening difference in salaries. Does our society really assume innocent until proven guilty if we are giving significantly more resources to prosecutors than to public defenders? It seems that our government has adopted the Hobbesian philosophy that people are born evil, which helps explain why there are so many people incarcerated within the United States. My recent experience shadowing a Federal...

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