Tuesday, October 26, 2021

"Not guilty" should be the default

Someone in my family got a jury duty notice again, but the trial was canceled before they met. But this is a good time for a reminder.

If you were a juror and had a bad feeling about the accused, but the government didn't prove its case against him, what would you do?

You should render a verdict of "not guilty" anyway.

"Not guilty" should always be the default. It's the government's "job" to prove their case to move you away from that position, but you aren't obligated to move an inch.

"Not guilty" doesn't mean you're sure he didn't do it. It doesn't mean you think he's a great guy. It doesn't mean you don't believe he's ever done anything else wrong. It just means the government didn't prove its case to your satisfaction-- or that the legislation he's accused of violating in this instance is counterfeit.

I could be on a jury and say "not guilty" but still feel the accused isn't trustworthy. I might still warn people to stay away from him because I think he's a slimeball. But I'm not going to hand the government a "win" based on my feelings and suspicions. Especially if they don't prove their case or are trying to enforce counterfeit "laws". It's your responsibility to hold them to a higher standard when you have the power to do so.

Besides, court isn't real life. It's just a ritual. Your life decisions shouldn't hinge on what happens in a court. If you don't trust someone, don't take a court verdict into account when considering whether you might be wrong about them.

There are people on death row (often for killing home-invading cops) I would gladly hang out with and there are people who have been acquitted that I would only be in the same room with if I were pointing a gun at them.

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  1. I think that is a real practical problem, which is why an accused's "prior bad acts" can't be mentioned at trial.

    1. "Can't be mentioned", but often are anyway. At least, those I know who've been on juries have told me that in those cases, the prior acts were mentioned. In one such case that someone in my family was on as a juror, a guy was on trial here because his dogs had gotten out and killed someone else's dog. So, the local police chief was testifying and starts talking about how many times he's gone to the guy's house in the past. The judge asked "what for?" and the cop said "drugs". It had nothing to do with the case being decided, but (I think) was just mentioned to bias the jury against him. It worked, but my family member felt guilty about it afterward, feeling she had been railroaded into giving the verdict the court wanted, rather than what she thought was right.