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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Jury Of Your Copland Peers

I spent the day in voir dire, questioning jurors in San Fernando. Some fun. All 80 filled out questionnaires with some rudimentary questions. About half gave as residence Santa Clarita or Canyon Country, two way out San Fernando Valley suburbs known for white flight. Almost all of those folks wrote that they had friends, relatives or neighbors who were in law enforcement. Many seem to know only cops - it’s like a paramilitary community. Let's just say the NRA does better there than the ACLU or Democrat Party. The schools are more likely to teach creationism than constitutional law - except for the 1st and 2nd Amendments.

So it was very interesting when I asked them if they could be “fair” to a defendant in a criminal trial. Several disagreed with the proposition that a person is presumed innocent until proved to be guilty. Many asserted that they would not believe the testimony of a defendant, because he’s the one accused.

One young man, whose father and uncle were police officers and who himself admitted such aspirations, stated quite proudly that the police work hard at investigations, weeding out weak cases before arresting and charging someone.

He conceded my conclusion that in his view there was no need for jury trials at all. Several others in the panel slyly smiled their agreement, although even their ardor to avoid jury service couldn’t force them to admit to this overt brand of fascism. Most were content to lie and claim impartiality.

When I got home, I read my L.A. Times and found the following headline:
“Wrongly convicted man wins suit” (May 1, 2007, B5) which reported a $2 million judgment for a man who spent 12 years in prison for a rape which DNA tests later proved he didn’t commit.

The federal jury found that a Riverside County Deputy Sheriff had fabricated incriminating evidence and withheld exonerating evidence in the case in order to get the conviction.

No wonder cops don’t like juries.

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