A Sign of the Times
All of America is familiar with the O.J. Simpson trial. Most Americans believe that he was acquitted of a double murder by "jury nullification." I am no lawyer, but as I understand it, jury nullification is a process in which jurors simply ignore the facts and the law, and make their decision on other factors based on their particular biases. In the Simpson case, it was race.
This process of jury nullification may be more widespread than we think. It is being fostered by the same people who resisted the segregation laws of the pre-60s.
A case in point.
On Oct. 9, 1999, C-SPAN aired a meeting of The National Bar Association. The subject was "Race and The Jury System." The primary spokesperson was William Moffett, President of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
Mr. Moffett openly advocated the use of jury nullification as a means of protest. The example he used was the large number of blacks who are convicted on drug charges. He calls these non-violent crimes, and not crimes against another person, and believes that these offenders should not go to jail. In addition, he excuses these criminals on the basis that the drugs they use are provided by white people who escape punishment. As is often the case with black people, he used the past treatment of blacks by white people as an excuse.
Judge Reginald Walton, of the District of Columbia Superior Court, argued against such subversion of the law, making the case that black communities live in fear of these criminals and deserve protection. He cited some places in the District where children are even afraid to go to school.
The moderator of this debate was Judge Yvonne Lewis of the New York Supreme Court.
I have to admit that this meeting, aired on public television, gave me a chill. It was bad enough that a lawyer, an arm of the court, was openly advocating subversion of the law. It was even more chilling that a room full of lawyers and judges were participating in the debate as though this was a spelling bee at a county fair.
It's outrageous, but I guess it's a sign of the times.