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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 7/27/11

Would Jefferson and Paine Dare to Criticize Jury Verdicts?

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Message Bill Hare

Thomas Jefferson once wrote that if he had a choice between a nation without government or minus newspapers that he would infinitely prefer the former to the latter.

Jefferson's comment emphasized his value on the importance of a society in which free expression was essential. Jefferson did not retract the comment even after he suffered numerous slings and arrows of the most outrageous fortune from enemy Federalist Party castigators of the father of our Declaration of Independence. Despite being calumniated by numerous untruths and damned by numerous ad hominem attacks Jefferson recognized that the life blood of any democracy was free expression.

Jefferson was joined by another Thomas, this one named Paine, who in his explosive tract "Common Sense" laid the case for free expression and its necessity in a democratic society. Jefferson and Paine both believed that a society needed individuals regularly participating in the marketplace of ideas.

It has been disturbing therefore to see how so many people who thrive on criticizing government, including the courts, in the wake of the controversial verdict in the recent Casey Anthony trial, have expressed the view that to criticize a jury's verdict constitutes desecration of lady liberty and the U.S. Constitution.

One commenter with a noted penchant for criticism in many areas claimed that it is "folly" to question jurors and the verdicts they render without being able to step into their shoes, be a party to their consultations, and have every bit of evidence available to them.

A look at fairly recent U.S. history renders such a claim foolhardy with progressives in the forefront criticizing numerous jury verdicts. Prominent San Francisco lawyer Vincent Hallinan used to tell law students that if they saw an opposing team from a leading corporation walk into court that they might just as well pack up and leave since the results were foreordained.

A jury found Sacco and Vanzetti guilty of murder during the 1920 upheaval of the Red Scare, which presaged the later Red Scare Two Nixon-McCarthy period. They were ultimately executed in an anti-immigrant American uprising following World War One despite a huge outcry from some of the period's most distinguished intellectuals. Would the reasoned argument have been to respect the jury's verdict? After all, those criticizing it, no matter how intellectually gifted they might be, could not step into the shoes of those jurors.

If jurors are to be paid such deference, what about judges with careers in the law? How can one criticize the Dred Scott decision? What about Plessy v. Ferguson? Moving into the present, what about Bush v. Gore and the Citizens United case?

The judges deciding all of the aforementioned cases had more legal experience than laypersons who dared question their conclusions. With respect to even those with backgrounds in the law, how can they dare criticize court decisions to which they were not privy?

One writer, an inveterate public policy critic, went one step further. This individual's conclusion was one of being tired of the Casey Anthony case. After all, there are numerous missing children cases in the writer's city and they do not receive attention such as the death of Caylee Anthony. The writer's conclusion was that those discussing the case needed to "get a life."

Think of the illogical twist of the suppositions and conclusion. A child dies and is discarded in a field in the manner of trash. There are lots of missing children and they receive scant or no publicity. In conclusion, those concerned about justice for the child discarded in a field should forget about the case and "get a life."

Did this author ever hear of remedial reform in the aftermath of tragedy? In this case the response was a petition to achieve ultimate passage of Caylee's Law as national fiat. Many of us signed this petition and hope that a law of this type mandating the reporting of a child missing within a reasonable period of time by its parents or guardians will be enacted. Should those involved in such an effort "get a life"?

An important reason to criticize the jury's decision was that it did not take its responsibility seriously enough to weigh the facts. One cannot routinely explain away that, as some jurors and alternates stated, they looked for a way to find Casey Anthony guilty but could not and correlate this with the quick verdict and never asking to examine any of the numerous exhibits in the case or study any testimony.

Incredibly jurors explained that one reason for concluding that reasonable guilt existed was the suspicious conduct of George Anthony. In tapes of jail interviews it was George Anthony who beamed like a laser on his missing grandchild while Caylee's mother became uncomfortable, seeking to change the subject.

The Orlando Sheriff's Department never considered George Anthony a suspect and spoke with him often since he unfailingly sought to cooperate with the investigation. Meanwhile his daughter repeatedly lied and led authorities on false chases, even manufacturing a fictitious nanny.

In the case of the duct tape obfuscation, remember that defense lead attorney Jose Baez acknowledged that the same irregular tape brand as that found at the crime scene was used by George Anthony. Baez sought to pin the entire burial episode on Anthony while leaving open the question of potential killing at his door. Baez noted that Anthony used the same tape to post signs concerning Caylee's death.

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Began in the journalism field in hometown of Los Angeles. Started as Sports Editor and Movie Writer at Inglewood Daily News chain after working in sportswriting of high school events at the Los Angeles Examiner.

Received a bachelor's in (more...)
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