Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Friday, December 15th, 2006.


Free at Last

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criminal justice

The Dumbest Trial of the Century has been discharged with a hung jury. Now that I’m free to talk about it, I’m going to vent.

First off, this was a bleeping marijuana possession case. The People contended that a substantial quantity of marijuana that had been found near, not in, the defendant’s apartment had been in the possession of the defendant. The People’s case had holes you could drive a truck through. The detective on whose uncorroborated testimony the prosecution’s entire case was based was caught in several, um, inconsistencies while he was on the witness stand.

Deliberations began yesterday morning. Just over an hour into the deliberations we took a vote — 11 not guilty, 1 guilty.

You can probably guess the rest. The one holdout wouldn’t budge, even though (after two full days of attempting to “deliberate”) he was unable to explain why he was certain the defendant was guilty. The fellow changed his “reasoning” several times over the past two days, but not his guilty verdict. Finally his “reasoning” devolved into guilt by association — drugs were found near (not in, remember) the defendant’s apartment. A Yonkers detective said the drugs belonged to the defendant. Therefore, the defendant was guilty.

And yes, the juror was an elderly white man, and the defendant was black (as was the prevaricating detective). Do I think racism was a factor? Hell, yes. But I suspect stupid was a factor, also — the juror lacked the mental capacity to understand abstract concepts like “burden of proof” or even “evidence.”

I was the jury forepersonlady, so the composition and rhetoric of notes sent to the judge were under my purview. I became so rattled I could barely crank out cohesive sentences, and I guess my last note (of about 4:50 pm today) was unhinged enough the judge took pity on us and declared a hung jury.

And here’s the kicker — as a clump of us jurors hustled out of the courthouse, we encountered the defense attorney. And he guessed without being told which juror was the problem. Apparently his client, the defendant, had been the one to insist that man be seated on the jury over the attorney’s advise otherwise. The defendant had a “feeling” about the juror, the attorney said.

There’s a moral here, somewhere.

And yes, I was terribly disappointed that I didn’t get to stand up in court and announce a verdict. I’ve always wanted to do that. It’s unlikely I’ll get another chance.

I’m going to get tipsy now. Regular blogging resumes tomorrow.

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Updating the Updates

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Bush Administration

I’m traipsing back to the courthouse today to defend truth, justice, and the American Way. In the meantime —

Overnight news on Senator Tim Johnson is encouraging; or, at least, there’s no change from last night’s news that the Senator is critical but recovering.

Regarding Senator Johnson, I second what Eleanor Clift writes,

Johnson’s illness should inject a sense of urgency into the Democrats’ agenda. No one would have put the robust-looking Johnson on an endangered list. Democrats have plenty of octogenarians and septuagenarians to worry about making it through to the next election. A health crisis that strikes without warning is a reminder of the fragility of the Democratic majority. With the direction of U.S. policy for the next two years riding on Senate control, Democratic leaders can’t afford to sit around figuring out how to position the party for ’08. That doesn’t mean they have to overhaul Social Security, but they should do what’s doable. Don’t delay; raise the minimum wage and try to lock in whatever reform protections they can. Life is ephemeral, and so is control of the Senate. …

… The doctors will soon have their say about Johnson’s prognosis, and assuring him that he remains a U.S. senator could be an important part of his recovery. If that’s the case, however eager the Republicans are to reclaim Senate control, it’s hard to imagine the governor of South Dakota, who is a Republican, wanting to do anything that would jeopardize Johnson’s recovery—like naming a Republican to replace him. That alone should forestall a change in party control. The Senate is a clubby place, and unlike the House, most members have experienced life in both the minority and the majority. With such tiny margins, the health and well-being of every senator becomes paramount. They’re important. They should start acting like it.

Believers might even consider Tim Johnson’s incident to be a memo to the Dems from God. Just a thought.

Following up the last post on the remarkable idiocy of Jonah GoldbergDr. Steven Taylor of PoliBlog writes a better criticism of Goldberg than I did.

(Warning: Civil War history buffs with weak hearts may want to skip to the next paragraph.) Yet the idiocy continues — We’ve seen President Bush compared to Truman and Churchill, which is stupid enough. Now John Hinderaker of PowerTools compares Bush to Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain at Gettysburg. Oh, sure. While we’re at it, let’s conclude that Bush is just like Einstein, Lincoln, Mother Teresa, and Ghandi, too. He also is barely indistinguishable [from] most brands of frozen peas. In fact, this morning as I shoved some bread into the toaster, I thought to myself how much that toaster was like President Bush. The resemblance is uncanny.

Via Chris Bowers at MyDDPaul Waldman writes that the 1960s culture wars might finally be coming to an end. That’s because we Boomers are getting old and will soon go the way of the dinosaurs. I can’t say I’m completely cheerful about this, but it’s an interesting article nonetheless.

At WaPo, read “A War Bush Wouldn’t Pay For” by E.J. Dionne and “Doing It for the Soldiers” by Dan Froomkin.

Later.

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