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Three score and ten or more

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

A verdict at last?

I have become so sick of the Anthony trial on television.  As an official news junkie I have been hungry to see what is going on in the rest of the world.  The verdict came in with a not guilty result which has enraged  many people who are cluttering the internet with their rage.  My reaction is somewhat different, but to explain it, I have to tell some of my experience in Georgia. 

When I moved to Portal I was called to jury duty within four months and from that moment, I was called to jury duty at least four times a year.  Sometimes I was called to state court, sometimes to city court, and once to a grand jury.  Usually I went to venire selection and was sent home after spending a day at the trial preliminaries, but once or twice a year I found myself on a jury.

It was a truly educational experience.  Their was one defense lawyer named (if I remember correctly) Ray Classens, and after observing him at work two or three times, I determined that if I were ever accused of a crime, he would be my choice as a defense attorney.  He was brilliant, cutting through the claptrap in such a reasonable humble way (he had one of the worst haircuts in history, and I came to the conclusion that it was that way on purpose.

In one trial, where I served on the jury for a couple of days, a young black man who had been doing yard work in a neighborhood was accused of slipping into his employer’s home and stealing a lot of jewelry.  He was caught, according to the prosecution, when he went into a pawnshop to pawn a very valuable jeweled ring.  The police has alerted to pawnshops to be aware of the ring, and when he tried to pawn it, the pawnbroker called the cops, who came immediately and arrest the boy.  There was one complication.  When the young man was arrested, the ring was nowhere to be found.  They searched the pawnshop, searched the guy, even x rayed him to see if he had swallowed it.  Nothing.  In searching him, they found some piece of costume jewelry of almost no value that had also been reported in the theft so they arrested him and charged him with a felony.  Mr. Classens pointed out, quite reasonably, that to be charged with a felony the value of the loot had to exceed some arbitrary amount, fifty dollars, or one hundred dollars or something like that, and they couldn’t find anything of that value.  They could charge him with misdemeanor theft by taking but not with a felony.  (I suspected that the pawnshop owner may have pawned it elsewhere, but he was never charged and the ring was never found). 

The prosecutor blustered that the existence of the costume jewelry in the defendant's pocket was evidence enough the the defendant was guilty of the whole charge.  Mr. Classens pointed out that the ring might never have been stolen, just reported stolen by the owner for insurance purposes, or that the pawnshop owner might have stolen it or “whatever”.  The case went to the jury, and ten folks found him guilty and two of us (me being one) felt that the prosecutor had not proven the case.  We sat in the jury room for several hours with the two of us vocally  abused by the others.

One of the juror, a local landlord with a lot of student housing, profanely lost his temper and yelled “Sometimes I hate college professors, they always want every damn thing  proven specifically. (then point to us) Can’t you understand that if it walks like a duck and squawks like a duck, it’s a damn duck.”

The case was halted with a hung jury, and some weeks later the young man pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge. and spent a few months in jail.

As I watched the prosecutors summation, and then his rebuttal summation I was struck by the fact that there was almost no evidence that tied  Ms. Anthony to a murder.  The argument was that she lied, that she wasn’t unhappy when her child was missing, and got a tattoo in that period, or paraphrasing,  “She walked like a duck and quacked like a duck to she must be a duck”.

I suspect that she did the deed, but she was acquitted due to what seemed to me to be total ineptitude in the handling of evidence by law enforcement and total ineptitude on the part of the prosecutors.  In my heart, I suspect her guilt and wish  there were some way to punish her, but I think  that any of us who might be rightly or wrongly accused of a crime should breath a sigh of relief that guilt was not proven on the basis of accusation alone.

When the ranting folks calm down, we will finally get to find out what has been going on in the rest of the world.


At 12:53 PM, Blogger Ed said...


To me, the greatest phrase in the entire legal system is "beyond a reasonable doubt." That phrase alone, sets our legal system miles above those of other countries.

I have always said that I would rather ten guilty people go free because there was reasonable doubt than one innocent person get sent to prison for a crime they didn't commit.

By the way, when I started reading this post, I thought you were going somewhere like in "Twelve Angry Men" and not that it ended up in a hung jury.

At 2:21 PM, Blogger Darlene said...

I also got so sick of hearing about that trial and seeing the same pictures of her over and over again. I too think she did it, but agree that the evidence was too circumstandual, but figured that they would find a way to send her to jail for a little more time. Anyway, I am so glad it is all over, and I doubt that she will be a threat to society. I do hope she does't have any more children though.


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