“A Marvelous and Precarious Machine”


A civilian blogger, Mark Pilgrim, blogs about his experience with a criminal jury trial:

Everything is slanted towards the defense. Big stuff, little stuff, process stuff, everything. We learned later (during sentencing) that the defendant in our case had several prior convictions, but the DA wasn’t allowed to bring them up during the trial. Witnesses were always being cut off in mid-sentence, but the defendant was given a wide berth to tell his version of events. We didn’t even know exactly what the charge meant until the defense lawyer made his closing argument. That, in particular, was incredibly frustrating. I made all sorts of notes like “is this important? don’t know, check later.” The judge said it was to force us to listen to everyone and everything as fairly as possible. It was frustrating on purpose, but it worked.

And I remember thinking at the time, “This thing. Right here, this thing. This is what we say America is about.” Everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and everybody gets their day in court. We suspected that Hans Reiser killed his wife. What did we give him? A trial. We suspected that Timothy McVeigh blew up a building and killed 168 people. What did we give him? A trial. (BTW, this is why people get so upset over our mishandling of terror suspects. What could possibly be more un-American than saying that some people don’t deserve a fair trial?)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.