The Challenge of Justice: From Ancient Athens to Guantanamo Bay

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Friday, May 03, 2013

In this special episode, The Takeaway examines the concepts of law and justice, from the abstract principles of Plato's Athens to the concrete challenges of achieving justice in multicultural, modern America.

Law professor Jeffrey Rosen explores the constitutional questions in the jurisdictional no man's land of Guantanamo Bay; Robin Steinberg, executive director of the Bronx Defenders, describes the obstacles to justice in the public defense system; Janice Kelsey, a participant in the 1963 Children's Crusade to protest segregation in Birmingham, Alabama, remembers finding justice through the Civil Rights Movement; Professors David Miller and Martha Nussbaum explore the ancient underpinnings of our modern justice system, and the challenges of finding justice in a multicultural society; and, finally, a story of what happens when justice fails with Kirk Bloodsworth, a former death row inmate who was exonerated on DNA evidence.

Justice Denied at Guantanamo Bay

Guantanamo Bay, Cuba: 45-square-miles of complex legal questions, where the Constitution may (or may not) apply, and where, as of Wednesday, May 1st, 100 of the 166 detainees are on hunger strike. Jeffrey Rosen, law professor at George Washington University and legal affairs editor at The New Republic, describes the legal complexities embodied in the detention and treatment of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

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Searching for Justice in the South Bronx

As the executive director of the Bronx Defenders, a public defense and legal services organization, Robin Steinberg has spent her career demanding justice for the residents of the poorest Congressional district in the nation. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, the landmark Supreme Court case that created the public defender system to ensure some balance between prosecution and defense, but as Steinberg explains, "Leveling the playing field is simply impossible."

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Justice on the Streets of Birmingham, 1963

This week marks 50 years since the Children’s Crusade in Birmingham, Alabama, when more than a thousand African-American children gathered in downtown Birmingham to peacefully protest segregation. Then a teenager, Janice Kelsey left high school to march that day and faced arrest as Birmingham police, led by the infamous commissioner Eugene "Bull" Connor, attacked her friends with high pressure fire hoses, police dogs and clubs.

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Striving for Justice in a Multicultural Society

In countries across the globe, communities with very different cultural backgrounds are still trying to reconcile lofty ideals of universal justice with the tensions of tradition, as David Miller, professor at the University of Oxford, explains. And while the problem of justice in multicultural societies may seem like a very modern issue, Martha Nussbaum, professor of at the University of Chicago Law School, explores the original concepts of these ideas, all the way back in ancient Athens.

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