Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Not being a terribly religious person, there are still some things I passionately believe in. For example, the Constitution, freedom of speech and assembly, equality under law etc. Another one is the "sanctity" of the trial by jury system. Numerous instances have shown a free trial can be subverted by prejudices or outright bribery of the trial judge or judges if there is not a jury. When there is a jury, extreme care must be taken that they are shielded from outside influence - so they won't be identified to be bribed or threatened. Also, in the jury room they are deciding as themselves, with the evidence and law as the basis to make their decision. That is why the mistrial in the Tyco case disturbs me. The identification of the juror during the trial was despicable and I was surprised to find out that apparently this public information is usually withheld by news agencies voluntarily - there is no law against it.

Now the Tyco people (Kozlowski and Swartz) seemed to be avarice personified and from reading the press it seemed like an open and shut case. But the press is not in the jury room, and it shouldn't be. The twelve people have to vote their conscience and it seems they all were going to. If the one holdout could not be convinced, then she is doing what the other jurors were doing if she was in good faith, and it appears she might be from today's New York Times article. I think that the system worked as well as it was going to in that case. What didn't work was the circus around the jury - the jury should be ignored by the press and should not be part of any reporting - they should be considered the invisible spectators in the courtroom.

What is learned in these cases is that prosecutors did not present a very coherent case (like the OJ Simpson case) and was burned by jurors who didn't buy the story or felt the defense's story was more compelling. So the prosecutor gets to go back to the drawing board this time, unlike the Simpson case where either a murderer was set free or an incredible framing job just narrowly missed perfection.


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