Friday, September 9, 2011

Jurors need to have guts and insight....

As we approach the now iconic date of “9/11,” it is important to take stock of who and where we are and how enduring we are going to invite and allow our values to be.  The real danger of talking of dangers, real and imagined, is that liberties become eclipsed by cries of “security,” and when cries of security trump liberties, the marvelous experiment in Philadelphia becomes for naught: we become no better than the banana republics that we pretend our self-decreed “exceptionalism” has allowed us to rise above.

Exploiting the hysteria associated with 9/11, the Bush administration purposefully engineered and presided over the most sustained period of constitutional decay in our history, and we have to reverse that before constitutional gangrene consumes the body politic.  Terrorism and alarmism by our own government against our own people is far worse than any attacks on our buildings by outsiders.  

Two of the many original and founding notions that we must restore with vigor are the presumption of innocence and the necessary doctrine that prevents one from having his liberty taken by government by criminal conviction unless a civilian jury, embracing that presumed innocence, is convinced beyond a reasonable doubt about the truth of the government’s claims. And even when there is sufficient evidence, a jury is not required to find a person guilty, in contrast with the inverse standard that when there is insufficient evidence, a jury is mandated to vote not guilty.

What seems too often lost in such discussions is the fact that government has enormous incentives for convictions, and no true devotion to objective, neutral justice.  The yearning for justice is just that, a yearning.  And the claim that such is the goal of government is a civics book nostrum increasingly divorced from truth.  Government is to justice what cancer cells are to health, and that is why the Framers announced that government is evil, sometimes a necessary one, sometimes an intolerable one, but always evil, if liberty and justice be the goal.

Time and again, in the courts in this and other areas, one hears prospective jurors voice various police state sentiments such as “if he weren’t guilty, he wouldn’t be here,” or “where there is smoke, there is fire,” or “I would always tend to believe what a policeman says,” or “if the case has been around this long, there must be validity to the charges,” or other similar Sieg Heil!-type idiocies that reveal only that we fought our Revolution in vain, and that people are increasingly ignorant of our own history and of the news all around about government and police corruption.

We will lose it all if the citizenry does not wake up to the fact that liberty, not power, is the necessary foundation of this Republic, and that the citizenry, speaking robustly through jury pools, is the ultimate protector of that liberty.
Every time a juror presumes their government is telling them the truth, we inch ever closer to the abyss.  Jurors need to have guts and insight, or all will be lost.

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