When Jurors Take Their Time
We ask these people-- well, no, we tell these people-- to sacrifice their careers and their families and their lives for a few weeks or months, for little or no pay, all in the name of justice, whatever that really means. We herd them from room to room inside a courthouse, nag at them not to break any of the rules, and shove at them incoherent instructions preceded by waves of queasy witnesses and ambiguous testimony. And then we expect them to be Delphic Oracles, separating out from the morass of evidence nuances of truth and wisdom.
Today I speak of the 4 men and 7 women who are determining the fate of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby at his perjury and obstruction of justice trial in federal court in Washington, D.C. But I can just as easily be speaking of the thousands of other jurors around the country who this week gave of themselves so that an imperfect system could chug along for a few more days. I would like to be annoyed with Libby's jurors for not reaching a verdict after seven days of deliberations. I would like to begrudge them the fact that they told their judge Thursday afternoon that they would like to break for the weekend early today. But I can't. Who am I, a non-juror who hasn't been held figuratively captive for the past months, to criticize how and when they want to share with the world what they think of the defendant and the government's case against him? As far as I am concerned, Libby's jurors can deliberate until the end of the Bush administration in January 2009
These poor people also have been tagged by the chattering class for asking for old-fashioned props like an easel and masking tape and Post-It notes to help them with their deliberations. Good for them. If they want an abacus and some dirt to scratch it the judge ought to give it to them, too. Who says that high-tech trials have to generate high-tech deliberations? And what's wrong with a few Post-It notes and an easel to help these people make sense of who said what to whom and when during the height-- I should say the depth-- of the Valerie Plame Wilson affair? It's not like judge is allowed by law to be particularly helpful. Have you ever yourself read jury instructions? Try it some time and then come back and rag on these poor jurors for not wrapping up their business in time for the weekend.
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