Thursday, February 24, 2005

Trials: South vs West

The U.S. Legal System isn't what you might think it is. There are 51 legal systems in the United States. Each state has one and the federal government has one. And there are thing that are illegal in one state that aren't illegal in another.

It can be difference in little things like, well, say in Georgia, where it's legal to make a right turn on a red light if there are no signs stating otherwise. Some states, it's just the opposite: you cannot make a right turn on a red light unless a sign explicitly says you can. Personally, I like the Georgia law, but it would be wrong for me to want to impose that on another state. That state knows how it wants to do things.

There are laws in some states that say sodomy is illegal. Some states, it's only illegal between those of the same sex; other states it's illegal regardless of the sex of the participants. And other states say it's just fine. But it would be wrong for residents of one state to try to impose their standards on another state, whether it's a sodomy-free state or a free-sodomy state.

Another way that states are different are in trials. Think back to 1995. Remember this little thing called the O. J. Simpson trial? Sure you do; it was in all the papers. It started in January 1995 and ran into October of that year. Right or wrong, that's how people in the South view a California trial.

In South Carolina, on July 19, 1995 the Susan Smith trial began. Five days later she was convicted. Five days after that, she was sentenced to prison. The entire Smith trial occurred while a single witness was testifying during the Simpson trial. And that summed up how the South saw it's legal process vs the Left Coast legal process: We can try, convict, and sentence a killer all while a single person testifies in California.

Well, there's another pair of trials happening, and it's another South vs West thing. Out west, they have picked jury for the Michael Jackson trial. And they're making a big deal out of there being no Blacks on the jury. Actually, some are saying "African-Americans," but if you trace my ancestors back far enough, say several hundred-thousand years, I'd qualify as an "African-American," but some folks wouldn't like that. Anyway, no Blacks on the jury. I'll refrain from making a joke about no Black on trial, either.

Over here, a jury in Phenix City, Alabama today convicted a low-life who murdered a woman in 1995. This was his second trial. Vernon Lamar Yancey was convicted in 1997 of walking into a convenience store, robbing it, and murdering the clerk who recognized him and called him by name. It was all caught on videotape.

Well, if it was on videotape, why the re-trial? Turns out the conviction (and subsequent death sentence) was thrown out when it was ruled the prosecution has wrongly disqualified potential jurors who were (and presumably still are) Black. So Yancey's jury had no Blacks.

Oh, if it matters to you: Yancey is White, the woman he killed was White, the other woman in the store who he didn't kill is White. If it doesn't matter to you, they're still White.

But, apparently the assumption is that had one or more Blacks been on the jury, they might not have believed the victim's identification that was caught on tape, and the actual murder, also caught on tape. Or am I missing something?

Well, the new jury was seated, witnesses called, and jury deliberations begun. And finished. This new mixed-race jury convicted him. Sentencing begins today.

I hope the Jackson trial doesn't end up with a conviction that's later overturned because there are no Blacks on the jury. The retrial here was hell on the victim's family. It never should have had to happened. Whether the prosecution was wrong, or whether the defense thought someone would see a videotape difference because of their race, or whatever the reason, it shouldn't have happened.

Thankfully, Yancey was convicted. Again. Perhaps the new jury will also recommend death, as the first jury did.

If Michael Jackson is found guilty, I hope the victim's family doesn't have to go through it all again just because no Blacks are on that jury. Absent a videotape of the crime Jackson's accused, perhaps race would make a difference on the jury.

Here in the South, we think the Susan Smith trial was done right and the O. J. Simpson trial was done wrong. Well, we must have done the first Yancey trial wrong. I hope the Michael Jackson trial isn't done wrong.

If nothing else, I don't want to have to read, see, or hear anything about another Jackson trial five years from now.


  1. Basil, this was just great, as always!

  2. What is it with California and it's all one race trials?

    I noticed there are a number of hispanics on the jury. My dad was a public defender that only defended murderers for 12 years. He told me he would never put a hispanic on the jury of a black defendent if he could help it. He said they tend to believe black people are trying to game the system, and so are more likely to convict.

    Actually I may sound racist but I have lost faith in juries and that people can judge each other. I know people (even white people) that think OJ did it, but think it's perfectly fine that he got away with it, because after all blacks have been so mistreated it's just getting back at the man. Yeah well his poor ex-wife wasn't the one mistreating anyone.

    So much for the law being blind.

    I have black friends (my business partner is also black) who are against affirmative action, pro the iraq-war, pro school vouchers, and even think Rodney King is a putz who deserved to get beat up.

    But I don't know a single one that thinks Michael Jackson did anything wrong. Even if you think he didn't actually rape anyone, still he did a lot that was innapropriate. But they won't even admit that.

    What is up with that? Maybe I just need to go out and meet more black people?

  3. MitsurugiBabaganooshFebruary 24, 2005 at 1:06 PM

    I know plenty of blacks who think Michael Jackson did it. However, I don't know many whites who think he did it.

    Then again, my current location 10 miles north of DC may have something to do with it.


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