Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Thursday, February 15th, 2007.


Deliberations

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blogging, criminal justice, Valerie Plame, Weapons of Mass Destruction

Jeralyn’s explanation of what the Libby jury might be thinking gave me flashbacks to The Dumbest Trial of the Century. Here Jeralyn explains what some of the “dumbest trial” commenters were too thick to grasp:

Scooter Libby is not required to prove he didn’t lie or obstruct justice. All he has to do is raise a reasonable doubt in the mind of the jurors that he did.

The test for reasonable doubt is not a simple weighing of the evidence, after which the jury decides which side to believe more. That’s the test in a civil case where the standard of proof is a mere “preponderance of the evidence.”

In layman’s terms, in a criminal case, if both sides’ theories and arguments sound plausible, that alone is a reasonable doubt and the jury should acquit.

To which a commenter astutely replied,

… in the end, a trial is not about “what is the truth” but rather what limits are there on the power of the state to take away liberty.

Toward the end, the “dumbest trial” comment thread devolved into my trying to explain “burden of proof” to an impossibly stupid commenter. In a criminal trial, the burden of proof is on the prosecution (the government, a.k.a. “the people”). The “dumbest trial” judge explained to us that, strictly speaking, the defendant didn’t have to prove anything. Further, criminal trials usually require a unanimous verdict. Obviously, the reason for this is to discourage the government from throwing citizens into jail on phony charges. In other words, it’s to put limits on the power of the state to take away liberty.

(The defendant’s lawyer in the “dumbest trial” demonstrated that at least some of the evidence against the plaintiff had been fabricated by one of the detectives. This screamed “reasonable doubt” to eleven of us jurors. Essentially, the guy who hung the jury was unable to wrap his head around the concepts of “reasonable doubt” and “burden of proof.”)

Jeralyn says that she wouldn’t be surprised if the jury acquits, because she could see how they might decide they have “reasonable doubt” of Libby’s guilt. And, of course, if the jury acquits, the Right will conclude the entire Joe Wilson Saga was a fantasy of the Left.

But, of course, this trial wasn’t about Joe Wilson or Valerie Plame Wilson or the Iraq War or the weapons of mass destruction. It was about whether whether Scooter Libby lied to FBI agents and the grand jury and thereby obstructed justice.

However the jury decides, I agree with Jane that the testimony had vindicated Murray Waas. If you want a roundup of the real issues, read Waas’s two most recent reports for National Journal: “CIA Leak Probe: Inside The Grand Jury” (January 12) and “Cheney’s Call” (today).

In brief: Dick the Dick is the instigator of the whole mess. Scooter was just following orders.

See also:For Liberal Bloggers, Libby Trial Is Fun and Fodder.”

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