The Liberty City Seven

I'd never have made it onto the jury for the Liberty City Seven, even if I'd been up for the case, simply because of my distrust of the federal Justice department. I'm not quite at the point where I'm ready to dismiss every case involving people accused of being tied to al Qaeda, but given the government's track record over the last six years, would it be that big a stretch, really?

But I found this piece from the Sun-Sentinel about the jurors interesting. Apparently, there were four jurors who didn't buy the government's case, and were intractable on it. The rest varied from wanting to convict on something to a couple who wanted to convict on everything. Look at some of the differences:

[The foreman] Agron, a religious school principal and a lawyer who supported convicting some defendants on some counts, said jurors who embraced the defense's scam theory were "unwilling to change their minds."

"I think a lot of the jurors really, really struggled and analyzed and went back and forth throughout the deliberations," he said. "I also think there were some jurors who more or less had their minds made up and it was going to be very, very hard to persuade them."
Look at the language he used. He begins by saying that the people who disagreed with him were "unwilling to change their minds," and continues along that vein, while never acknowledging that he was acting identically. He doesn't seem to have wavered in his trust of the government's case, but he obviously feels justified in that position. He also notes, by way of contrast, that he never struggled or analyzed during the process. I don't want to be harsh on Mr. Agron, because I wasn't in the courtroom and I don't know if that quote has been taken out of context or anything, but it seems to me that if you're not struggling and analyzing evidence at a trial--especially one of this magnitude--then you aren't doing your job.

One of the other jurors had a different take on it:
Juror Michael Silva, 48, said he wavered as he considered the evidence during deliberations. However, he described the prosecution's case as "muddled" and said he gave little weight to testimony from two government informants.

"The evidence just wasn't clear-cut," said Silva, general manager of a Miami radio station. "It was not like they had evidence of somebody planting explosives."
What this contrast says to me is that the two jurors came into the case with different points of view. Agron seems to have come to the case with the idea that the defendants had to prove their innocence. Later in the article, when talking about the defense strategy of the defendants, he said "I kept saying, 'It's a great story. It makes sense. Now where's the evidence?'" Of the jurors who voted for acquittal, the reporter paraphrases Agron as saying
Ultimately, the group favoring acquittals wanted more proof the defendants discussed terrorism with each other when the FBI informants were not present, Agron said. They also rejected testimony from one informant that Batiste approached him seeking an alliance with al-Qaida.
Those jurors apparently came to the trial leaning toward the idea that the government was going to have to prove its case, and would give the benefit of the doubt to the defendants.

I know which group I sympathize with, and I know which group I'd like to have on my jury were I ever in front of one. But I wonder if my attitude would change if I trusted the federal justice system at all? If I didn't know that the federal justice system has been politicized beyond all recognition, and didn't feel like every time there's an arrest of brown-skinned people and the terrorist label is attached, that it's a way of distracting the news media, even if only for a day, from news of yet another government scandal? I wonder how I'd feel if the last two Attorneys General hadn't been John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales?

I don't think my attitude would be noticeably different. Call me a starry-eyed idealist, but I still think that even incarceration is a major enough deal that we ought to presume innocence whenever possible, and make the government really prove that it's necessary to put someone in a cage to protect public safety. In short, I'm probably too much a friend to the defense to ever make it onto a criminal jury.

Newer Post Older Post Home