[conspire] [Off-topic] Always a bridesmaid...

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Mon Aug 6 18:17:31 PDT 2007

Quoting Darlene Wallach (freepalestin at dslextreme.com):
> Rick Moen wrote:
> > Flattery's always welcome, but, honestly, whether a juror's considered
> > good or not most often seems to depend on whose ox is getting gored.
> > I'd be an attentive juror, at least -- but maybe a rather harsh one.
> I like the fact that you think critically and would not follow a bad
> law just because the judge told you to follow it.

Well, it's a judgement call, isn't it?  Despite having wasted many years
consorting with lawyers, and having indulged certain perversities like 
recently having actually read a good chunk of the California Judicial
Council's jury instructions for criminal-case juries[1], I'm not a
lawyer, and there might be really good reasons for a judge to tell a
jury to do or not do something.

The legal system at its best is designed to enforce some very clear and
reasonable rules of fair play, which in turn determine what evidence
juries are and are not permitted to hear, what methods witnesses are
allowed to use in their testimony, and -- most painfully -- what
decisions jurors are supposed to be allowed to make.

The reason jurors are (in all but exceptional cases, and some would say 
not even then) not supposed to make judgements of law is that they're
not lawyers, nor are they legislatures:  Critics of broad jury
discretion would say that, if you think a law's unjust, the right place 
to get it changed is the ballot box.  The all-white juries that twice
refused to convict the Klansman murderer of Medger Evers
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medgar_Evers) probably would have claimed, 
if cornered, that they were refusing to apply a bad law and were acting
in the name of basic justice.  The murderer got off scot-free, in

So, I'm not willing to flatter myself merely because I think and talk
about these issues.  I'm enough of an existentialist (a horribly
out-of-fashion concept) that I know talk's cheap, and what matters in
the end is what you do, not how you intellectually justify it.  It's a
good idea to consider in advance what you'd do if you had a jury vote
and were being pressured to not vote your conscience, so you won't do
something you'd live to regret for a long time thereafter.  I won't say
how I'd resolve the dilemma of acting on imperfect information, except,
as I said ten years ago to Judge Kramer, "As best I can, sir."  ;->

> I meant the entire legal system is broken and corrupt - judges, the
> District Attorneys, the public defenders defense attorneys, etc..

Maybe less than you think.  However, I know you personally are
politically disaffected in a lot of broad, general ways -- and far be it
from me, as we said in San Francisco, to say your kink is not OK.  ;->

A long time ago, in a college far, far away, I remember reading a slim
but smart volume called _The Irony of Democracy_ by three historians and
sociologists.[2]  It's one of those wonderfully refreshing looks at
history and politics that cut right through the bullshit and tell what
is really happening.

The authors had done extensive polling of US citizens, and noticed something
peculiar:  The higher up the education and status scale one goes -- and
thus the more deeply into effete elitist-scum Ivy Leaguers and such -- the
greater and more fervent people's devotion to our nation's founding
principles people get (fair elections, free speech, freedom of religion, 
women's rights, accountability of officials, etc.).  By contrast, the 
great mass of the (non-"elite") people turn out to be overwhelmingly
apathetic, inactive, intolerant, and _opposed_ to our most important
principles of freedom.  E.g., 90% turned out to not _actually_ believe
in communists having the legal right to speak in public, and so on.

So, the sole hard core of backing for democratic pluralism are... our
nation's overeducated elitist scum.

Recommended reading, if you can find it.

[1] Something like a thousand pages of PDF, so be warned (and selective).
[2] http://www.amazon.com/Irony-Democracy-Uncommon-Introduction-American/dp/0155058002

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