The Dance of Theria
Law and Punishment
One would think that a city-state with no official mayor or leader would be a chaotic mess of anarchy and criminal activities. Far from the truth, Theria’s diverse factions realized that trade, growth, and profit need to be watered with laws and regulations. To this end, twenty years after the town’s founding, the Council of Heart was held. What resulted is the byzantine rules and laws of Theria founded by compromise and not a little bit of blood.
There are three separate laws in Theria, each with its own enforcers, courts, and punishments. These separate series of laws overlap and intertwine which means Theria earns the nickname “Home of the Lawyers”.
Low Court – Enforced by the Militia, the low court handles what would be considered “base” criminal activities. Punishment is generally eye-for-an-eye in the case of violent crimes and fines and “service to the city” for property crimes. Repeat offenders are often given extended time though exile-on-pain-of-death is placed upon those who cannot reform. Low courts deal with civil cases where lawsuits are brought up against other citizens. There are two level of appeals (first to Trade Court and then to High Court), but the costs of doing so usually means that few “common” citizens manage to do so.
Trade Court – Enforced by The Guild, trade court handles all merchant and trade related issues. Companies that sue or have issue with each other and issues of “corporate” espionage and sabotage are heard before the magi’s. Oddly enough, despite the arcane skill of The Guild, magic is not allowed to provoke nor divine testimony in the Low and Trade Courts. Trade Court also handles any issues with outside political entities and regulates the issuance of trade permits. Punishments in the Trade Courts usually are in the form of fines.
High Court – Enforced by the Theist, the High Court handles “sins against the soul and gods”. This includes the raising of undead, the destruction of souls, and damage done by magic (including summoning of monsters). Of all the courts, they meet the least often as such crimes are near impossible to prove. Any trial held by the High Court is bound to bring out all of Theria to gawk and follow. Magic is allowed as both divination and enforcement of testimony in the high court. It should be noted that of late the High Court has been dodging cases about slavery, in most cases they have been pushing the argument to the Low or Trade court. The Theist are divided about the damage slavery may cause the soul, and are considering the slippery slope any ruling would be. Punishment in the High Court tends to be all or nothing: death or innocence.
A week in the life of a criminal:
Upon being caught, usually by The Militia, the criminal is placed in a jail cell. Twice a week grand juries are held where each case is considered and then passed onto one of the courts. The grand jury can dismiss the case if they feel that there is no acceptable evidence of a crime or that Theria would be unable to get a conviction.
The jury consists of five “peers”, usually retired judges and lawyers. If the criminal has no lawyer, one of the peers defends while another persecutes. Otherwise one persecutes while the criminal’s lawyer argues for either no case or a venue (high, trade, low court) that best serves their client. If the jury decides that there is enough evidence, and they rarely deliberate more than an hour, the criminal is then moved to the appropriate jail. Rarely are bonds or house arrests allowed.
The amount of time to wait for a trial depends on the court. Up to a month can be expected with the low court, several months for the Trade court (fewer cases but they last longer) and immediately for the high court. Cases are argued one-or-two-days in most cases with the accused responsible for proving their innocence. The state must produce either a witness or evidence that the accused is guilty. The defense has the option to request a jury-of-citizens at which time five citizens are drafted to sit for the case.
Fines and service are levied on anybody found guilty. In the case of the Trade court, magical means (a mark of justice) is often used to ensure payment. Theria has one island that serves as a penitentiary for those who cannot pay the fine or are to be guests of the state. While the conditions on the island are harsh, it is actually very efficient and (surprise) ran honestly. Deaths that occur on the island are usually accidental and not “the norm”. Somebody given time on “The Rock” has a reasonable expectation to survive the experience.