Thursday, June 21, 2012

Pray that you never have to have a trial by jury.

I want to see the little man fly!
I was working out in the gym today when I saw something that caused me to shake my head in disgust.  Up on the televisions in the gym the station was on CNN.  The focus on the news station was the Zimmerman trial, specifically it was showing a reenactment of the event.  Not a 90 Min's or lifetime event style reenactment, where individuals actually enact the events, but I believe a walk through with an individual.  I couldn't tell if this person was sympathetic towards Zimmerman or one of the many individuals calling for is blood. I didn't care really, as I have given almost no attention to this case, and I actually consider it a point of pride (more on why later).  I was left wondering why CNN was even bothering doing this kind of coverage, outside of the obvious ratings ploy, because regardless of how impartial CNN tries to be they will invariably stock the already burning fires of passion that surround this case.

At this point I do not think Zimmerman is going to get a fair trail.  Not because the jury or the state is out to get the man, but simply because I don't see how we can keep the maelstrom that surrounds this event from the jurors.  Even sequestering the jurors away from society wouldn't be enough considering the extensive amount of coverage and societal attention this case is receiving.  And it is this sort of events that can expose the potential weakness of being tried by a jury.  I say that, because, I was a juror once, on a pretty serious attempted murder case where someone was shot, and I can tell you that after my experience I would never want to stand up and plead my innocence before a jury.  (And lets not confuse the principal of innocent before proven guilty with the reality of the situation.  A whole host of things can affect your perception of innocence or guilt, and this 24/7 media attention on Zimmerman doesn't help him because out there on same nationally syndicated show some shrew or rat faced talking head will be denounce him to God above in front of millions of Americans.)

It was my experience with a real trial, with real consequences for other human beings, that makes me turn away whenever there is any expose or 'news' story like the one I saw above.  There are so many things missing from a reenactment that are necessary, and will probably only distort what actually happened.  Out of all the things that is distorted there is nothing more important than this one fact.  No matter how hard these reporters or sideline sleuths try they will never get into the state of mind of either Zimmerman or Trayvon at that particular place and time. And that isn't even the most terrifying thing of all.

You see the concept of trial by jury means that we are supposed to be tried by our peers, individuals who think like us and are most likely going to have our world views.  This is supposed to help with the fact that no one can really know Zimmerman state of mind or intentions that night. If someone thinks like you, then they are more likely going to arrive at that particular truth.  However, while this sounds great on paper its almost never the case in reality.  America is too diverse a nation, and always has been. The risk is very high will could end up on a jury with someone who has declared you guilty from the onset of the trial.  This isn't speculation, I've actually seen this.

In the trial I sat on the charges were attempted murder in the first degree, or premeditated murder.  Now after listening to all the evidence I had concluded that there was too much reasonable doubt, long story short they could never tie the fire arm to either the assailant or the victim and there was some evidence that the confrontation was initiated by the victim. However, despite my opinions, and that of a good portion of the jurors, there was one man that had decided that he was guilty of attempted murder in the first degree.  Rehashing the evidence didn't convince him, nor did reading the law.  He kept saying 'my gut tells me he is guilty.'  Fortunately for the young man there was a workaround and he wasn't convicted of attempted murder in the first degree; we did convict him for attempted murder in the second degree as there was no doubt he tried to shoot a guy in the back.

And that isn't even the biggest reason why I would be afraid of trial by jury. Even in the event that I would be placed with jurors that were withing my standard deviation for intelligence, same age, and cultural mindset I would be very nervous.  Because the kind of justice you will receive depends heavily on the judge and prosecutors that you have.

Even though prosecutors are supposed to be dispensers of justice, there is no promises that you will not end up being a victim of political ambition.  Remember the Duke Lacrosse fiasco?  A few young men were thrown into the public eye to be defamed and humiliated all for the sake of political ambition. Legal protocol was usurped, all for the good of public opinion.  In the end justice was served, sort of; but this highlights the incredible danger you face.  Woe be it if you ever find yourself in the public eye for a 'hate crime' because you will never receive a fair trial.   And then we get to the judges.

The kind of justice you will receive rests most heavily on the judge that you have.  There is no case that illustrates this more clearly than the one where a man was convicted to seven years in prison, despite having no criminal record, for having a firearm in his trunk.  The judge in this case actively kept the jury in the dark about certain laws that could of exonerated the young man, despite repeated requests by the jury for clarification on exemption laws. This means that if you are so unlucky to find a judge that has an axe to grind, and it was apparent in this case that the judge did have one, you could find yourself being denied the justice that judges are sworn to uphold.

That is perhaps the most frightening thing of all. The very fact the you could find yourself denied justice simply because a judge wishes it. I haven't even gotten to talk about jury nullification, which would be the wet dream of every anti-drug war activist in America; and has been used to nullify convictions on slavery on prohibition.  It was upheld by the Supreme Court as a right of the juror, but in the same breadth the court made it clear that judges do not have to make jurors aware of jury nullification if they did not feel the need too.  

It is for these reason that I hope I never have to end up in front of jury.  Because with everything that is stacked against you the words 'Innocent before proven Guilty' really do ring hollow.  Considering how obese and unhealthy Americans are; if you ever find yourself in a trial, maybe take your chances with trial by combat. It worked for Tyrion.

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Seattle resident whose real name is Kevin Daniels. This blog covers the following topics, libertarian philosophy, realpolitik, western culture, history and the pursuit of truth from the perspective of a libertarian traditionalist.