Cuneiform text that records a portion of the 282 laws that are collectively known as the Code of Hammurabi are pictured on this fragment of a clay tablet. This codex is one of the earliest known set of laws ever created. The law’s ethos reflect what we would now call Old Testament, think an eye for an eye. These laws regulate a wide variety of subjects, including commercial, property and family law.
Many properties of modern jurisprudence descend directly from this code. The accused is given a presumption of innocence. Both the accused and the accuser have the opportunity to present evidence. While the code strived to achieve some equality, biases still existed within it. It reinforced the society’s class structure, with one law for the rich and another for the poor. For example, the punishment for a doctor who kills a rich patient, was the loss of both hands. While, for poor people, the same offence only warranted a fine as punishment. Sexism was also enforced within the code. For men, having sex with servants and slaves was permitted, but for women any adultery was punished. And then there was the whole codification of slavery.
Law is built on precedence. It is thought that the Code of Hammurabi originated first as a collection of his rulings, before it eventually became codified as law. From this start, almost 4,000 years ago, the law has evolved much. Sometimes moving forward, sometimes back. The human flaws inherited from Hammurabi have rippled through time. The current impeachment trial lies both outside the realm of normal jurisprudence, while still being rooted within the law. Infused with politics, its justice has become corrupted. Making any verdict that this trial decrees suspect. Giving neither a conviction nor any true vindication.