Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Jude verdict

Unlike some lawyers, I do not put juries on a pedestal. I do not think that they have any mystical propensity to get things right and, given the way we select juries, are probably unlikely to understand the evidence in a lot of cases.

Nevertheless, I think that you can't really make a judgment on a jury's verdict unless you do something approximating the work that they did. You need to hear the witnesses. You have to be familiar with all the testimony. Until you do that, you don't have an informed opinion; you have an impression.

It seemed to me like OJ was guilty and it seemed to me like the tire slashing defendants were guilty.

And it was my impression that the evidence was there to convict at least two of the defendants in the Frank Jude beating case.

That was my impression but it was the firm conviction throughout the African-American community. And the fact that the jury which decided otherwise was all white makes this an awful day for race relations in the community.

I am skeptical of the claim that the jury went the way it did for racial reasons. It's too simple to say that the jury believed white cops over a biracial defendant - or even cops over civilians - because the main testimonial conflict was among white cops.

I am not certain that the jury even rejected the idea that there is a "blue line of silence" for racial reasons. Look at the reaction to the testimony on that issue on (largely white) conservative talk radio and among (I think entirely white) conservative bloggers. I wouldn't be surprised if the jury believed that the cops were covering up.

But that wasn't the question. The question was whether those three guys did the thing that was being covered up. Eyewitness identifications are not as certain as people believe them to be and the defense must have kicked up enough doubt about them given the fact that the prosecution witnesses were drinking, may have identified the defendants only after their picture was in the paper, etc.

Still, none of that is going to still the anger in the black community and, although I generally hate the way in which everything gets racialized, this time I can't help but be sympathetic.

A jury can't convict people because there is community pressure to do so, but this is all very unfortunate.


Jay Bullock said...

I agree with you that, based on what I've read and seen, there should have been convictions in the Jude case. But I do want to remind you that, you know, three of the four tire-slashing defendents pled guilty.

Rick Esenberg said...

I know - to basically nothing - because the jury said it was hung.