Sunday, October 09, 2005

Joe Liberman, Lowell Weicker, National Review, Jury Trials, and civic responsibility...

The usual gang is harrumphing about faux democrat Joe Liberman's showing up at "National Review's 50th Birthday Party," or whatever.

Atrios, linked above, links to a pretty racist rant from National Review back when I was a day short of two months old. While I agree with Atrios that the idea of supporting a journal that makes the early days of Planned Parenthood look, well, oh, heck, they were racist, too...I was struck by this bit:

National Review editorial, 8/24/1957, 4:7, pp. 148-9: The most important event of the past three weeks was the remarkable and unexpected vote by the Senate to guarantee to defendants in a criminal contempt action the privilege of a jury trial. That vote does not necessarily affirm a citizen's intrinsic rights: trial by jury in contempt actions, civil or criminal, is not an American birthright, and it cannot, therefore, be maintained that the Senate's vote upheld, pure and simple, the Common Law...

Now jury trials exist to make sure that "one's peers" judge one; not instruments of the state, and therein lies the rub: I don't have links handy, but jury trials in America often devolve into spin games between prosecution and defense; it's information that's kept from juries that is often evocative of guilt or innocence.

Grand juries, of course, are another matter entirely; in Grand juries the jurors can often ask questions; the "ham sandwich can be indicted" chestnut is true because, as I understand it, the standard of proof is pretty low.

Therein lies my dilemma: I've been called for jury duty. If empanelled, chances are I'll be excused. I actually do believe there's such a thing as "jury nullification." If drug cases came before me, I'd be more inclined to acquit than anything else; I think as a society the way we handle even meth cases is apalling.

Moreover, I understand the spin game; I'd have reasonable doubts unless the prosecutor presented a slam dunk case but even then...why didn't the defendant plead down?

I've been called before to jury duty & never served because attorneys see the occupation "engineer" and it invariably raises a red flag to them. Too reality-oriented for them.

So to tie loose ends together: I suspect that jury trials, as done in the US, at least at the petit jury level, don't often produce justice, because of the above effects; so despite National Review's early racist elitism, I suspect that the way it's done in certain other countries might actually produce justice more often, provided there's an accountable government to begin with, which, given the current regime in power, is indeed quite an assumption. So I'm conflicted over the whole thing, but ideally,, would want to, you know, actually have the possibility of justice. As long as things are as they are now, it's probably not likely. I could, do a "not commit" Supreme Court thingy in being empanelled, that would likely be seen in a microsecond by proscution or defense in voir dire. Or, I could be perfectly honest with them (which is likely what I would do anyway). But even that doesn't seem like justice to me; there ought to be people like me on juries, despite the inconvenience of it to me personally (busy, busy time at work).

Anyhow, Lowell Weicker was the guy Liberman beat way back when. Liberman does support nasty things; he's in hock to the insurance and banking interests, and should go Republican. Weicker, bless his heart, left the Repubs a while back. He was as good a Republican as you'd get.

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