Most of the stuff I read from conservative writers is so extreme that it doesn’t even merit a response.
I have little interest in debating people who read Ayn Rand books and take them seriously or who were born on third base and think they’ve hit a triple, that they “built that” themselves. These people have blind spots that only prayer, and time, can fill. They will likely spend their careers tossing red meat to fellow True Believers, tweeting with the #tcot hashtag and riffing on the “MSM.”
But when a writer I respect, like Bill Johnson, brings the weak sauce, it makes my heart sad. Let’s take a look at his latest, which examines the difficulty former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is having finding a jury of the racial composition both he and his prosecutors can live with.
Perhaps because blacks are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system, public opinion polls show that blacks generally believe the deck is stacked against them. For this reason, jurors may opt for “jury nullification,” in which they acquit technically guilty criminals because of a social grievance, or reach a verdict contrary to the facts in the case. The O.J. Simpson murder trial is but one one example of this perversion of the law.
This is a willful misreading of the Simpson trial, one that fails to account for the differences between an acquittal owing to the prosecution not proving its case and jury nullification, which is more “yeah, he did it, but we won’t hold him legally responsible.”
We all have our opinions of the Simpson trial. Personally, I believe that if Simpson had the same public defenders many defendants are forced to rely on, he would’ve gone to prison. But since he had the best attorneys money can buy, he got off. This is more a commentary on the criminal justice system than on Simpson’s guilt or innocence.
Still, I take it as a positive sign that greenbacks matter more than black skin in the eyes of the law — anyone with a team of dogged and skilled attorneys could’ve put Los Angeles prosecutors Chris Darden and Marcia Clark in clown suits.
(Question for Bill: In the trial of alleged child-killer Casey Anthony, was that jury nullification or not-guilty? If jury nullification, who to blame? Is this proof that even sainted white jurors can be unfair?)
Anyway. Have your opinion on O.J. Think he’s guilty if you choose. But what happened in his case was not jury nullification. I know it and Bill Johnson either knows it. Or should.
One also wonders why Johnson singles out black people for suspicion.
Johnson’s post dedicates 4 paragraphs and 185 words to the problems blacks have being fair jurors. He spends one paragraph, and only 36 words, on the issues whites have: “Conversely, everyone in America saw the “beat down” video of Rodney King by Los Angeles cops in 1991. But an all-white jury in Simi Valley didn’t see what we saw and refused to convict the cops.”
That said, no evidence has surfaced that equal protection is somehow in jeopardy by disproportionately low numbers of blacks — or disproportionately high numbers of whites — on jury panels. Still, the debate about what constitutes a jury of one’s peers is not going away.
Johnson has apparently not come across this Duke University study of Florida, from 2000-2010, which found that all-white juries convict black defendants some 16 percent more often than they do white defendants. Or this New York Times report on a study finding that Southern blacks are often expelled from juries. A jury selection system Johnson hails as “probably as good as it gets” is, in fact, deeply flawed.
This is the evidence Johnson would have you believe doesn’t exist.
Johnson also seems inclined to expect the worst from his fellow black people, referring to the “special kinship” between black jurors and ‘black criminals’ (Pro Tip: They’re actually just ‘defendants’ until found guilty).
Me? I’ll chalk the relative lack of hung juries and outright acquittals of black defendants as evidence that black people are no different than anyone else who serves on juries — we want safe neighborhoods and we want the people who terrorize them brought to justice. A Sam Riddle or Bobby Ferguson may get over every once in a while, but these are the exceptions that prove the rule. If this were a common practice, it wouldn’t be front-page news when it did happen.
Johnson is a strong and often persuasive writer, a journalist I admire for both his skill and his longevity — not to mention his business sense. But he might learn a lesson from Paul Harvey in telling “the rest of the story.”