Legal rights or moral rights?

A few days ago I mentioned the late Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s concern that western democracies based too much concern on “the letter of the law”, too little on the morality of decisions made under the “cold and formal” banner of legality.
I was reminded of that message on July 9 when reading in Canada’s national newspaper The Globe and Mail of a high profile gang crime trial in Vancouver, British Columbia. The story focused on “a former gang leader who defected to the Crown at the trial involving the murders of six people.” The former gang leader was one Michael Le who at the start of the trial was among the accused charged with conspiracy and one charge of first degree murder.
In the fall of 2013 he surprised court watchers by changing his plea to guilty. And there is nothing wrong with that if the change is conscience driven and sincerely made.
Crown lawyers must have felt Mr.Le sincere because as part of a plea deal he agreed to testify as a Crown witness and the Globe and Mail informs me: “In exchange the Crown dropped the murder charge and signed off on a sentence that could see Mr. Le eligible for parole by the end of this year.” It should be remembered that the Crown will not lay charges against an accused unless there is a reasonable chance of conviction. So was the original change shaky and the opportunity to withdraw welcome? Or was the offer of testimony from a former gang leader against accused executioners who were at one time under his leadership too great a temptation to ignore?
Whatever the reasons it was all done legally, carefully, and within the letter of the law. But as Solzhenitsyn warned, while the limits “of human rights and righteousness are determined by a system of laws; such limits are very broad.” He further warned that “a society with no other scale than the legal one is not quite worthy…..A society which is based on the letter of the law and never reaches any higher is taking very scarce advantage of human possibilities…The letter of the law is too cold and formal to have a beneficial influence on society. Whenever the tissue of life is woven of legalistic relations, there is an atmosphere of moral mediocrity paralyzing man’s noblest impulses.”
In a choice between legal rights and moral rights which would you opt for?

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