The current legal system being used in the U.S. today is Common law. Common Law came from England during the Middle Ages and was used in British colonies. Common law is mostly uncodified, which means that there’s no comprehensive compilation of legal rules and statutes. While common law does have statutes, it is mostly based on precedent. Precedent is the judicial decisions that have been made in previous cases and it is both binding and persuasive in court when deciding cases with similar facts and/or issues are being decided.The legal system is complex and has many functions and dysfunctions and plays a huge role in society in that it governs how people in society act and although it governs how society acts, this does not mean that the law is autonomous and separate from society and its social phenomena. The most important assumption of law is that the legal system is not autonomous. Friedman states that an, “autonomous system is one that operates under its own rules, that grow, changes, and develops according to its own inner program” (Tomlins 2007). If law were autonomous it would mean that social phenomena such as politics and culture would not affect how the law functions, this is clearly far from the truth. Although law is considered to be somewhat autonomous from society, it is not nearly as autonomous as scholars used to think. In modern society it is almost impossible to believe that law is completely separated from society. In fact it seems to carry with it a fairly deep imprint of the society in which it is a part of. Friedman’s theory is basically saying that law is imbedded in society, which I tend to agree with. Take for example the issue of same sex marriage. Fifty years ago just the idea was unheard of, because fifty years ago it was not socially acceptable and was in fact illegal. Fast forward to today, we can see how society has adapted and changed its ideals of what a relationship looks like and what it is socially acceptable; thus the law followed we need not look further than the landmark ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that legalized same sex marriage.
Hypothetical SituationTwo teenagers, Tim Barns and Jack Carter, were charged with murder. It was alleged that they kidnapped two 10-year-old boys. They beat and tortured the boys, before killing them. The victims were found in a wooded area, just outside of town.During the initial investigation, police felt there was evidence of “cult” activity, as the scene where the boys’ bodies were discovered indicated that this may have been some type of “sacrifice.” This directed their attention to the two local teenagers, due to their clothing, tattoos, and general appearance; they also listened to heavy metal music. They stood out from the rest of the small community, which was much more conservative.The police pressed the younger of the two teenagers, Jack, into a confession. They did not obtain written permission from the Jack’s father to interview him, which is required. Afterwards, a localcriminal defense attorney took up the case, pro bono.At trial the prosecution presented this confession, along with some physical evidence (clothing/fibers from the boys’ homes/things) that were arguably similar to fibers found at the scene. No other specific DNA evidence tied the defendants to the scene of the crime.There were also two witnesses who said that they overheard the two teenagers discussing the factthat they committed the murder and would commit additional murders. However, under cross examination, their testimony was not consistent with other facts. No witnesses could place them in the area of the incident on the day in question.Despite the efforts of the defense attorneys, the judge ruled in favor of the prosecution on severalkey evidentiary matters. The jury convicted the two of murder. Tim, being 18 years old at the time of the crime, was sentenced to death; 16-year-old Jack, whose confession was used to convict them, received a life sentence.