Justice in Ancient Rome and Justice in the Modern American Republic

The trial of the century took place in Rome in 70 B.C. It featured the two most renowned legal minds of the day, the up and coming thirty-six year old Marcus Tullius Cicero for the prosecution, and the venerable Quintus Hortensius Hortalus for the defense. The defendant was Gaius Verres, formerly governor of the province of Sicily. It was generally expected that a Roman governor profit from his position, but Verres’ degree of corruption was off the charts, even by the standards of the late Roman Republic.

Roman juries were notoriously corrupt and it was routine for rich defendants to bribe their way out of difficulties. Cicero, however had mountains of evidence against Verres. One event that stands out is that Verres crucified a merchant. As the man hung from the cross he repeatedly screamed “I am a Roman citizen! I am a Roman citizen!” It was against both law and custom to execute a Roman citizen by crucifixion, such a dire punishment was reserved for slaves and foreigners.

Such was the case against Verres that all the money he could use to bribe the jurors would avail him nothing. After a few days Hortensius advised his client to flee Rome, and Verres took ship to Marseilles where he lived in exile until Marc Antony had him executed decades later.

Which brings us to the up-coming trial of former President Donald Trump. It is an open and shut case. We have all witnessed how he repeatedly lied and told his followers that he had won the election and had been cheated out of it by massive fraud. We have all witnessed how he exhorted his followers to go to the Capitol and disrupt the ceremony that was about to take place to certify the election. We have all witnessed how his followers invaded and ransacked the Capitol building searching for Congress people with the stated intention of doing them harm. We have all observed the lax response of law enforcement to the insurrection and the total lack of action on the part of the former President who watched the event on television.

There is no possible way that any reasonable person can acquit former President Donald Trump of serious wrongdoing. And yet it appears that he will be acquitted at the upcoming trial. Forty-five Republican Senators have publicly opposed the proceedings. This purely a political posture as they are afraid that their voting base will turn on them if they vote to convict the former President. Political expediency trumps justice for these Senators.

It seems tragic and shocking to me that justice had a better chance of being achieved in corrupt late Republican Rome than it has in the modern American Republic.

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