Daily Archives: August 2, 2013

Twelve Angry Men

They have outlawed the Truth!

With whistleblowers tackling the mighty US government, I could easily have something to say about Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden[1].  But I don’t think I really have much to add to what’s already being widely said.  Glad the latter has escaped from airport limbo: whatever his eventual fate, the Russian authorities had to do something, and I don’t envy them the choice!  A year should provide the opportunity to arrange travel to one of the Latin American countries that’s offered asylum, if the Russians allow it or turn a blind eye.  I expect he was interviewed by Russian agents: wonder what deal they may have reached?

What motivates me to post now is a couple of lower-profile cases where people have been locked up for a lot less.  No whistleblowing, just in one case expressing an opinion, and in another googling some information.  All the mainstream media (e.g. BBC) have reported this week that two jurors have been locked up for not Playing the Game according to strict Club Rules.  One juror expressed a (probably prejudiced) opinion on Facebook of a defendant, while another did a bit of research to inform himself.[2]

Is there no such thing as a prejudiced juror?  Are courtroom stories and dramas such as Rumpole always talking nonsense when they describe them?  Hardly seems likely: one might just as well ask if there’s no such thing as a human juror!  No, the first juror’s crime wasn’t his prejudice, it was the fact he expressed it in a medium that can’t reliably be hushed up.  He blew the court’s cosy game of make-believe, and went to prison for it.  His simple truth – like thousands of others, MUST remain ritually unspoken.

As for the other juror, that story is even more disturbing.  If you believe in a naïve concept of justice – the sort of thing where you get found guilty if you committed a crime and innocent if you didn’t – how could you not want to inform yourself?  Yet that’s outlawed: you are required on pain of imprisonment to limit yourself to what you can make of a story spun to you by (ideally) two career liars and control freaks, who may or may not have made the effort to inform themselves.

Have you stopped beating your wife?  Yes or No?
The barrister has years of practice; the average honest witness has little or no defence and comes across as evasive or even dishonest.

How many jurors out there are wracked with guilt for years – even a lifetime – after being suckered into reaching a verdict that, as soon as the courtroom story fades and the real world re-enters their minds, they know or suspect to be profoundly wrong?  I can see it in anyone with the kind of borderline-obsessive personality of a typical geek who gives attention to detail.  Or those with a strong enough social conscience to let it affect their lives.  Indeed, I wonder if you have to be a full-blown sociopath to do jury service without at least some risk of lasting damage to your psychological wellbeing?  That second juror should’ve taken his lead from my little rant.

[1] Anyone else feel the merest hint of Schadenfreude when the US Govt denies the description “whistleblowers”?  I guess it’s easy to think a whistleblower is a person who reveals someone else’s guilty secrets, not ones own.
[2] This is general comment on issues raised by the headlines, not on the particular cases about which I know no more than is reported in the linked story.