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William C. Altreuter
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Thursday, June 16, 2005

Ginger points me to this article on how the Jackson jury reached its verdict. We were talking about it in the office, and it really was a tough case for the prosecution. Most prosecutors will tell you that the burden of proving their case "beyond a reasonable doubt" is not as tough as it sounds, if only because of the presumptions and prejudices that jurors come into the process with. For the most part prosecutors are prosecuting criminals, after all, and for a lot of people the mere fact of arrest is meaningful enough.

The equation changes once you start talking about a public figure. For one thing, the jury is aware that this is a big deal case. Everybody tells them so, for one thing. They are asked again and again if they can set aside the notoriety of the matter, and deal with the case just on the evidence, and they promise that they will do this. And then they do. The notion that the prosecution or the police have somehow targeted the defendant-- a hard sell when you are talking about some character selling crack out of his apartment-- becomes a somewhat easier proposition to accept.

The article quotes a juror as saying, ""My hope is that the world has confidence in us because we took this as seriously as anyone does anything in their life." I believe that. Jurors always want to do the right thing-- and they are mindful of the fact that they are engaged in a very big deal. The effect of that, in a case like this, is that the jurors become very analytical in their approach-- which can be death if the standard is "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" and you have a complex, fact intensive case. I believe that the high profile cases out of California that we've seen come out this way have done so because the prosecution has over-tried the case: they have made it complicated, in an effort to make it air-tight. The effect of this, however, is to present the jury with more evidence which they can question-- like picking at a loose thread, suddenly the whole sleeve unravels.

I'd bet a nickel that the majority of that panel think that Michael Jackson is a pedophile. The prosecution just couldn't prove that he molested this particular kid.

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