This litigation [the Williams Case] is exceptional for at least three reasons. The facts are unusually tragic; it involves an unusually clear violation of constitutional rights; and it graphically illustrates the societal costs that may be incurred when police officers decide to dispense with the requirements of the law.
—Justice John Paul Stevens 1
Many Americans hold the view accepted by mechanical jurisprudence that the operations of legal system involve a court first recognizing the existing criminal law, applying the law to the facts of the case as they become apparent at trial, and, then, mechanically, rendering the only logical verdict that could be arrived at. According to this perspective, the judicial process worked perfectly in the Williams case. Jurors were given the opportunity to become informed about the facts of the case through the evidence and testimony presented at trial and then they applied Iowa’s first-degree murder law to those facts as they were instructed to by the judge. The verdict of guilty came as no surprise; justice seemed to have been served.
The problem with mechanical jurisprudence’s understanding of the process is that it rarely considers the role of procedural laws. Along with the substantive law, making certain actions illegal and subject to specified sanctions and penalties, the courts also have to apply procedural laws. Procedural laws are concerned with due process. Due process refers to the procedural requirements that governments must observe when they act in a manner