Saturday, July 9, 2011

Jury Duty

The rage and grumbling over the verdicts in the Casey Anthony trial should remind us all why sworn jurors decide guilt or non-guilt, not the news channels, not the bloggers, not the crowds outside the courthouse, and especially not Nancy (Dis)Grace. In the jury room, the standard for proof is "beyond a reasonable doubt." Everywhere else, the standard is whatever we want it to be, mostly "guilty until proven innocent."

Prosecutors had holes in their case. Anthony had a first-rate lawyer. Admit it: when you hire an attorney to defend you in a criminal trial, you want that legal eagle to get you off -- not present a spirited defense, but get you off. Richard McFaddin, a Kansas City defense attorney who successfully defended notorious "town bully" Ken Rex McElroy against 20 of 21 felony charges, admitted he was a "hired gun," a person paid to help his clients beat the rap.

"Yeah, but I'm innocent. Casey is guilty as sin!"

Perhaps. But trials aren't about what really happened, they're about what you can prove -- beyond a reasonable doubt. Suspicions are not admissible as evidence. Nancy (Dis)Grace is not representing the state. Gut feelings do not tilt the scale towards conviction. "Not Guilty" does not mean innocent. It often means, "Not Proven."

Ironically, so many of us think we're smarter than that knuckleheaded Casey Anthony jury, yet so few of us actually are willing to serve on a jury. My employer, thankfully, is supportive of jury service, even though working journalists have nary a chance of surviving voir dire. Federal Law requires employers to support jury service. We shouldn't have to make excuses or fear for our jobs.

Justice is not beautiful, clear-cut, or convenient. If we are not teaching this in our government classes, our understanding of civics is even more abysmal than I thought. And if we are going to hate on jurors for deciding a case based on facts, standards and instructions rather than mob mentality... then we should be praying for GOD to help us all.

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