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I remember a news story from a few years ago. If I get some details wrong, feel free to correct me. But as I recall, a young girl, maybe 14 or 16 years old, was raped and killed, I think in Texas. The killer got out on a technicality or something (again, I don’t remember the details). After his release, he was eating in a restaurant, and the deceased girl’s mother walked right up to his table in the restaurant, shot him six times in the chest, laid her handgun on the table, and raised her hands in surrender. She was arrested and charged with murder and the jury found her not guilty even though an entire restaurant full of people had watched her kill the guy. Presumably, because at least some people on that jury thought that her actions were reasonable. As a father of daughters, I struggle to find fault with the mother’s actions myself.
That is my understanding of the importance of a jury trial. Does a jury of your peers feel that the law is appropriately applied in your particular case? I hesitate to write about this because Ricochet’s lawyers know a whole lot more about these concepts than I do, but I see our jury system as a buffer between the defendant and the blind justice system our founders constructed. The only reason I bring it up is that I think the jury system is working against the defendant, rather than for him, in the Chauvin case, which may be appropriate depending on your perspective, I suppose.
Jerry pointed out early on that George Floyd’s death may not have been what it initially appeared to be. I was skeptical of his posts initially, but sure enough, the autopsies showed that Floyd died of a drug overdose. My wife points out that it doesn’t matter what he died of, because the jury had made up their mind before the trial started, because they’re on social media, like 95% of the US population. I’m pointing out that I’m not sure which laws, exactly, Mr. Chauvin broke. Although my wife may be right – it probably doesn’t matter – the jury has already decided. He’s guilty. Of whatever he’s charged with. The trial is just a formality. So the jury would seem to be shirking its duties.
Or, perhaps, is this exactly what a jury is supposed to do?
The jury in Texas found the mother not guilty, because in their community, at that time, they sort of had to.
The jury in Minnesota is going to find Chauvin guilty, because in their community, at this time, they sort of have to.
Everything is working the way it’s supposed to. Fortunately for the mother, and unfortunately for Mr. Chauvin. But our society lives on, according to the values which we hold important at the time. Interpreting these changing values is difficult for a legal system, but easier for a jury of our peers. Still difficult, but easier.
Again, I don’t claim to understand the legal side of all this. And I’m not sure what I think about these issues. But as you folks have probably noticed over the years, I do my best to not allow my writing to be hampered by ignorance. I know, it’s inspiring…
What do you think? Is our jury system working? No system works 100% of the time of course. But is it working in this case?
If the jury finds Chauvin guilty despite evidence to the contrary, does that mean that our jury system is broken? Or does that mean that it’s working exactly as it was supposed to?
This is a crummy case. I don’t like the optics any more than anyone else. Chauvin is a difficult guy to defend. I’m not sure what I want to happen here. I’m even less sure what should happen here.
But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m just wondering what, precisely, the purpose of a jury is? To protect an innocent man? To uphold the current values of a society at the time? To over-rule the justice system (even if no law is broken, this is still wrong)? To increase faith in our justice system by involving members of the community?
Is this jury going to uphold its duty, whatever that is, in the Chauvin case? And more importantly, should it?
What do you think?Published in