EDITOR’S NOTE: “Justice looks like …” is a special series in the Voices column. Readers will have the opportunity to consider justice from numerous viewpoints. The series is based on each writer’s understanding of Scripture and relationship with Jesus Christ. Writers present their own views independent of any institution, unless otherwise noted in their bios.
You are encouraged to listen to each writer without prejudgment. Then, engage in conversation with others around you about what justice looks like to you.
As if dealing with COVID-19 hasn’t been stressful enough, the unfortunate and ill-advised actions of a few police officers once again have ripped the bandage off the ever-seeping wound of racial injustice.
The wound now is gaping open, with pain and blood spilling all over every news outlet and venue in the world. As a result, age-old questions about justice—what it is, what it is not and what it looks like—have resurfaced at the forefront.
My experience seeking justice
I have been a lawyer for 41 years, and more than half of that has been as a Texas prosecutor. During that period, I have worked for five different district or county attorneys, having been involved with cases ranging from traffic violations to capital murders.
I have appeared before innumerable judges, gone against innumerable defense attorneys—and was one for a short period—and have worked with a whole host of police officers, state troopers, deputy sheriffs and officers from a plethora of other agencies.
I even spent two years in Afghanistan mentoring and training judges and prosecutors.
I have been immersed in the sea of justice for more than half of my life. Yet, here we are, asking again, “What is justice?”
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That is of no small importance to a prosecutor, as our “duty,” per the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, is not to obtain convictions, but to see “justice is served.”
Black’s Law Dictionary defines justice as “the constant and perpetual disposition to render every man his due” and “the conformity of our actions and our will to the law.”
Clear as Texas crude, right?
Webster offers a clearer framework: “The quality of being just, impartial, or fair.”
But, that word “fair” also links us to a couple of concepts we, as Christ-followers, reflect from him—grace and mercy.
As a seminary student years ago, I learned a good rule of thumb for these two concepts. Grace is giving what is not deserved, and mercy is not giving what is deserved. This brings it home for me.
And speaking of justice and mercy in the same breath, isn’t there something in Micah 6 about that?
Justice in the eyes of the law and Law
Where I work, justice means doing the right thing, the right way, the first time, and doing no harm—exonerating the not guilty, convicting the guilty with competent, credible evidence, and securing a sentence proportionate and appropriate to the crime, yet tempered with grace and mercy.
Justice is using the law to hold people accountable for hurting others and to restore victims to the position they enjoyed prior to the crime, all the while attempting to perform these duties fairly, consistently and with no regard whatsoever to the accused’s race, gender, age, sexual orientation, economic status, civic position, religion or profession.
Even police officers are not immune from prosecution for criminal behavior.
I believe the Author and Finisher of our faith expects no less of me.
Randy Dale is an assistant district attorney for McLennan County and an adjunct professor of business law, criminal law and criminal procedure at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. He also is a member of the First Baptist Church of Temple.
Click here to read the full “Justice looks like…” series.