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May 28, 2015

jurors taking the law into their own hands

If you are not local to NYC this story might not be known to you. Thirty-five years or so ago, a little boy, Etan Patz, disappeared from Lower Manhattan, never to be heard from again. There have been a number of suspects over the years, but recently a man from New Jersey was charged and tried. No physical evidence existed. The prosecution argued purely on the strength of the suspect's confession. The trial ended in a hung jury, as one juror remained convinced that the state did not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Now I have no idea if the suspect did it or did not do it. I have a lot of hard time giving confessions a lot of evidential weight, first of all because they are factually meaningless. I can confess to killing JFK and it certainly does not mean that I did. And on top of that, I do have a hard time trusting cops when it comes to confessions. All of these are facets of human nature that are uncomfortable but true. But at the same time after three decades it is likely that there is no physical evidence at all, and someone surely did something terrible to Etan Patz, so it would be a good thing if someone was ever convicted.

Where I'm going with this is that Tuesday morning, I noticed a news item on the first page of the local section, with the headline Etan Patz Jurors, on Anniversary, Meet at Scene of Boy's Disappearance. Apparently some portion of the hung jury have taken the case on as a cause. And yes, there are some hard feelings towards the hold-out juror:

Many of the seven jurors and one alternate juror who gathered on Monday said that they were bitter about [holdout juror] Mr. Sirois's stand, which he has defended as a principled position based on what he saw as a lack of evidence.

"He had an agenda," Alia Dahhan, Juror No. 1, said. "He used this as an excuse to become famous."

Okay, so, this Juror No. 1, accusing someone of shirking their duties as a juror in order to seek fame, is doing this at some sort of organized photo opportunity that the news media somehow knew about, and her words are being spoken to somehow holding a microphone, while someone else is taking her picture.

I'm just saying that it turned my stomach a little bit, not just the hypocrisy, but the idea of the spurned members of a hung jury taking their case to the people in the most public way possible.  This is not the way juries are supposed to work, and the judgment being shown by these runaway jurors makes me seriously doubt their ability to come to a fair verdict.

It's all just so now, isn't it.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:30 AM