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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Three trials. Three verdicts. All correct

Three cases ended this week in a symmetry of possible decisions: guilty, not guilty, and hung jury. All three drew comments, of course, as people talk even though rare are the people who followed these cases in court.

I did not follow them, so why not comment on the comment, eh?

First up was Michelle Carter who at 17 encouraged her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III, to kill himself, texting him (according to the New York Times):
The time is right and you’re ready, you just need to do it! You can’t keep living this way. You just need to do it like you did last time and not think about it and just do it babe.
Her actions went beyond that:
On July 12, 2014, Mr. Conrad drove to a Kmart parking lot and connected his truck to a water pump that released carbon monoxide. At one point, sick from the fumes, he got out of the truck. Ms. Carter told him to “get back in.” His body was found on July 13.
Now 20, she is an awful woman who deserves punishment for encouraging a depressed man to kill himself.

The verdict from Bristol County (Massachusetts) Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz was guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

The New York Times -- which rails against hate speech -- was so aghast that it published a column by Robby Soave, an associate editor at Reason magazine. He wrote:
By all means, let’s empower teachers to confront harassment and refer troubled teenagers to mental health professionals. But we don’t need to broadly criminalize teen cruelty to do that. Nor should we continue down the path of pretending that the First Amendment’s ironclad protection of hateful expression is voided whenever someone says (or texts) something that makes us squirm.
What Ms. Carter said to Mr. Roy was outrageous. Sending her to prison on a possible 20-year sentence is both outrageous and unjust.
I disagree. If she told him to kill her father, she would be an accomplice. She told him to kill himself. We should not condone such behavior.

There is a First Amendment fetish among intellectuals, which they further limit to free speech and free press. Getting a boy to kill himself over you is not free expression of thought. It is a crime.

I trust the wisdom of a judge steeped in the intricacies of juvenile law in Massachusetts who actually heard the case over a dime-a-dozen pundit with an ax to grind.

Lawyer David French at National Review made the same argument, saying she merely behaved badly. Given the much higher rate of successful suicide among men, I am uncomfortable with such a cavalier attitude to egging a man to kill himself.

Then there was the acquittal of Jeronimo Yanez, a police officer in St. Anthony, Minnesota. He stood trial for second-degree manslaughter.

During a traffic stop, he panicked and shot and killed Philando Castile last year. Castile had a concealed carry permit, which he told Yanez. Apparently this triggered a tragedy.

This is an outrage of course. All tragedies are. Black Lives Matter capitalized on the verdict. But some conservatives also want the verdict reversed.

From French:
I understand the inherent danger of police work. I also understand the legal responsibilities of men and women who volunteer to put on that uniform, and the legal rights of the citizens they’ve sworn to protect and serve. I’m aware of no evidence that Yanez panicked because Castile was black. But whether he panicked because of race, simply because of the gun, or because of both, he still panicked, and he should have been held accountable. The jury’s verdict was a miscarriage of justice.
I agree that we should hold Yanez accountable. Like Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Yanez should never wear the badge again.

But unlike Carter, Yanez did not intend to kill. I did not sit in the trial. A jury of 12 did. They heard and saw only what the judge -- and the law -- allowed them to hear and see. I trust them over dime-a-dozen pundits.

We have a judicial system that presumes innocence, and is dedicated to the proposition that it is better to let 100 guilty men go free than to imprison one innocent man.

Lastly, Bill Cosby stood trial for rape. After days of prosecution, Cosby's lawyer did not bother with a defense. The jury could not reach a verdict.

Stacy Brown of the New York Post said Cosby was confident all along that at least one juror would hold out for acquittal.

From Brown:
A prosecution spokesman denied there was ever any offer, but Cosby insists there was.
“They offered me a deal,” Cosby said during one break. “They want me to wear this bracelet around my ankle,” he said. “They want me to say I’m a sex offender.”
Why did he decline?
“I’m innocent,” he said.
“But most important, me and [wife] Camille went to South Africa to visit Nelson Mandela,” Cosby said, referring to the anti-apartheid revolutionary who spent 27 years in prison, became South Africa’s president and passed away in 2013.
“Mandela was free, but we met him at Robben Island where he was held prisoner all of those years,” Cosby said.
“I sat in that cell where he lived all those years. I saw those conditions. I heard what he ate and what he had to deal with.
“So, if they send me to that place, then that’s what they will do and I will have to go there.”
Some may dismiss this as celebrity justice. Cosby was a beloved American comedian. Cosby said the prosecutor had no case, and maybe it is the fan in me, but I agree. The women waited all those years.

Given Cosby's age, I hope the judiciary rejects a re-trial. Let him enjoy his grandchildren.

Perhaps his accusers will fare better in civil courts.

Conservatives can weigh in on trials all they want. The acquittal of O.J. Simpson was the talk of the town back in the 1990s.

But we also must accept that the First Amendment is not a license to kill, and that trials have outcomes we may not always like.

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  1. The jury system is like democracy - it's a crazy way to do things but it works better than everything else that's been tried.

  2. Carter telling the boy to kill her father would be the instigation and abetting of a criminal act. Carter telling the boy to kill himself isn't the instigation of a criminal act because it isn't against the law to kill yourself any longer.

    Of course, I am not going to lose much sleep over Ms. Carter's predicament- she really is horrid.

  3. Jury decisions can be a crap-shoot.

  4. Commenting on jury trials is a lot like calling strikes from behind the third base dugout. You really weren't there. We trust juries. Citizens should not try to avoid jury duty.

    1. The only jury I ever sat on (called for several but only picked once) was for an extremely minor traffic accident. I was impressed and amazed by how seriously all the people on the jury took the case and their deliberations. We can trust juries of Americans. And you are right, people should not try to avoid serving. It's important that ordinary people sit on juries - that's what they are all about.

  5. i disagree about cosby. I don't care how many years go by. you rape someone, you should not go free even if its 50 years after the crime.

    1. The operative word is "IF".

      From the testimony, it was not clear whether this was consensual, or not. The woman gave no indication after the act, that she was cognizant of having been raped. She maintained friendly relations for some time after.

      POSSIBLE that she was repressing a rape. BUT, not definitive.

      The very essence of "Reasonable Doubt".

  6. My first adult career was in a law office, for an old lawyer. One of the most important things he taught me was "Never second guess a jury." He said just like in a marriage, only the jury knows all the evidence and all the details used to make their decision, and they get it right, no matter how it "looks" in the press. Through life, I've found he was right.

    1. Tina, you were blessed. I have a feeling you already knew that.

  7. I have sat as a juror for both a civil and criminal trial. Great experiences both. I have full faith in the legal system. I do not have any faith in former presidential candidate French.

  8. " Like Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson,... should never wear the badge again."

    What is Wilson guilty of?

    1. You don't have to be guilty to lose your job. Do you think any police force would want to go through the hell of hiring him?

  9. regarding Yanyz, Castile was stoned and not listening to the officer's commands. He reached his hand back toward his wallet and also in the direction of the visible fire arm which can be seen in pictures his passenger snapped at the scene of his departure. I think that was a good shoot, so apparently did the jury. the Persecution otoh should be looking long and hard in the mirror at the mess they created for the city and the money that went to liars err lawyers because of his stupidity. It didn't come out of his pocket though so he won't care. Disbar the SOB and put the officer back on the street.

  10. Always request a trial by jury. Never place your freedom in the hands of a judge. And NEVER take a court-appointed attorney. He is being paid by the man who is after YOU. - Elric