Law and Korra
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Law and Korra

Is the Legend of Korra’s legal system fundamentally flawed?

Law and Korra
OV Guide

The world of Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra may seem like magical places to live. Sure, you have to deal with the occasional villain trying to take over the world, but you also live in a world full of heroes who can bend air, water, earth, and fire to save the day. There is one danger that the Avatar has yet to halt though, and that is the flawed legal system.

In TheLegend of Korra, we first get a peek into the system when the crime lord, Yakone is tried on charges of manipulating people’s bodies using a technique known as blood-bending. The trial features a defending lawyer, a prosecutor, witnesses, and a committee acting as a judge. There is one crucial component missing for a fair trial though: the jury.

Here we see a clear difference between the law of United Republic of Nations and the law of the United States of America. While U.S. law is quite far from perfect, it does provide a far better system than this fictional alternative. According to the U.S. constitution, an individual being tried on criminal charges has a right to a trial by jury. This means the decision of whether or not the individual is guilty within the eyes of the law falls into the hands of a group of citizens who do not come to the case with bias. In Yakone’s trial, we see that the committee of judges takes on the role of jury, and they are certainly not unbiased. We can clearly see beforehand that Aang and Toph had concluded before the trial began that Yakone was guilty, and had themselves overseen his arrest. With a single group acting as judge, jury, and police (at least there’s no executioner), the United Republic of Nations sets itself on a dangerous path.

But is this really a valid concern, you may ask? Sure, Yakone’s trial may not have been exactly “fair,” but he was a hundred percent guilty, and the system in place allowed him to successfully be prosecuted. Where’s the harm if no one ever seen falsely accused of a crime? To answer that question, we have to look at season 2.

Early in the season, Korra’s uncle, Unalaq is taken prisoner by members of the Southern Water Nation for instigating a military takeover of their land. After Korra frees Unalaq and defeats his captors, there are put on trial… alongside Korra’s parents. Korra’s parents were present at a meeting with the captors and are tried as conspirators, and here is where we see the detriments of a trial without a jury. The judge, taking on the role of prosecution and jury, quickly finds Korra’s father guilty, even though there is little evidence to support this view. Unalaq had ordered him to rig the trial against Korra’s father, though if there had been a jury of Southern Water Nation citizens, he would've been less likely to be found guilty.

Additionally, by the judge acting as a prosecutor as well, there was no one to keep him in check when questioning the witnesses, such as when he interrupts Korra during her testimony. The defendants also lack a lawyer, to which they are supposed to have the right (at least in United States law). The lack of lawyers is even seen at the beginning of the show, when Korra is arrested in Republic City. When she is questioned by Chief of Police, Lin Beifong. By United States law, an individual under arrest has the right to speak to a lawyer, and does not have to answer questions by the police before being able to speak to one. Sure, things worked out well for Korra, but that’s only because she was friends with City Counsel member, Tenzin.

Perhaps the world of Avatar would be better if the legal system underwent reform, or at the very least, if there was more political debate. Aside from the justice system, there are other flaws to notice in the legal set-up of the Avatar’s world, but to find out about them, you’ll have to wait until part two!

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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