The Jury Talks Back

4/10/2011

I have a problem with this

Filed under: Uncategorized — Scott Jacobs @ 12:30 pm

I’m a “Rule of Law” kinda guy…  I don’t like drug laws, but I abide by them. I don’t like the Supreme Court’s ruling in Snyder v Phelps, but I recognize it as being the right decision. I dislike it when celebrities get virtually no punishment at all for crimes that would see one of us plebeians thrown into jail.

So I’m actually sort of upset by this verdict.

The jury in Charleston Municipal Court found Billy Spade of Hico not-guilty of the charge.  Spade was arrested when he spit tobacco juice on a member of the Westboro Baptist Church.

Look…  I hate the WBC and all it’s members.  I wouldn’t life a finger to assist them in any way regardless of what was happening.  Hell, I’d probably not help them even if it caused me to suffer the same fate. Seriously, my hate and loathing of those completely worthless fuckwits is a real and tangible thing.

But that doesn’t change the fact that the guy did commit battery.  He spit on her, for crying out loud. If I spit on – or even at – a cop, my ass would be soundly beaten and tossed in jail, and I would almost certainly lose my court battle. The man’s claim at trial that he was spitting on her sign, which she was holding over her head, is pretty damned weak. In my mind it doesn’t even pass “reasonable doubt”.

What happened here was the jury didn’t like the victim, and so the wrong-doer got a walk, and frankly that should scare the shit out of you.

What if the jury just plain didn’t like black people? Or gays? What if they don’t like Republicans? Or Jews?

Would you be OK with the a jury giving a pass to someone who just walked up and spit on a gay man holding a sign saying he wants the right to marry?  Would you be OK with a gay man getting a pass for spitting on a girl saying marriage should only be between a man and a woman?

If not, why would you find it OK to spit on a member of the WBC?

Either the law applies to everyone, or it should apply to no one.

8 Comments »

  1. Would you be OK with the a jury giving a pass to someone who just walked up and spit on a gay man holding a sign saying he wants the right to marry? Would you be OK with a gay man getting a pass for spitting on a girl saying marriage should only be between a man and a woman?

    If not, why would you find it OK to spit on a member of the WBC?

    Well, that cuts right to the point of it.

    The truth is that I am not extremely offended by any civil political expression. I’ve seen commies argue for some of the nuttiest stuff, and the only thing that ever got me angry was when they said Arabs were incapable of democracy (in the run up to the Iraq invasion). And all I did then was yell at the commie racists a lot.

    And yet I find WBC to be something other than political expression. I find it to be an intentional psychological attack, meant to entrap normal folks in a lawsuit for profit. It’s a very complex scheme to get rich by inciting good people to stand up for good things.

    Yes, if someone attempted to dishonor a veteran’s funeral (I’ve been to quite a few of those, and have never seen this attempted), I imagine I’d find it OK for the loudmouth to suffer for it.

    The law should be changed to reflect society’s outrage (or lack thereof). Some would say it already has been. Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire

    What we need are clear guidelines as to what constitutes fighting words, to where such words have to be particularly horrible. It shouldn’t be enough that you’re blasting the troops, or gays, or whomever, but it should be enough if you’re doing so at the target’s funeral. That’s an egregious attempt to create a fight, and the law should recognize what is clear to society already.

    I think there should be a positive defense available for battery or a small number of other crimes if you can prove this especially extreme version of fighting words, and if you successfully make this defense, your penalty is some kind of low misdemeanor, with that sort of weak penalty.

    The reason that jury didn’t apply the law is that the law is wrong. The law being wrong is a fact that Phelps recognized when he as an NAACP civil rights lawyer, and he’s been cashing in ever since.

    Comment by Dustin — 4/10/2011 @ 9:57 pm

  2. The reason that jury didn’t apply the law is that the law is wrong.

    Oh, well then.

    What other laws can we ignore because they are wrong? Is there a list somewhere?

    It doesn’t matter if the law is wrong – it remains the law. If it is wrong, change it. You don’t get to just decide whether or not to apply it based on whimsy.

    Comment by Scott Jacobs — 4/10/2011 @ 11:01 pm

  3. You don’t get to just decide whether or not to apply it based on whimsy.

    hehehe, well, if I’m on a jury I do.

    Like I said, though, I think some very limited version of the ‘fighting words’ should impact what crime it is to batter someone.

    And though I don’t have a list of laws that are wrong, I think our common conscience, reflected politically or via jury nullification, often helps expose when some should be changed.

    It doesn’t matter if the law is wrong – it remains the law.

    I think this is quite a radical POV, given all the screw ups in legal history.

    Am I calling for an exception to freedom of speech? Yes. So? There are a lot of exceptions to freedom of speech. Is walking around naked, or screaming fire, or libeling people, worse than what Phelps does? Not categorically.

    How are we supposed to improve our laws if we don’t stand up to the wrong ones? and just to be clear, I’m only calling for a legal defense to be created.

    Comment by Dustin — 4/11/2011 @ 12:30 am

  4. Just to be clear, I’d have voted to convict this guy, so long as the jury is capable of giving him a light sentence. That’s assuming the state actually had the evidence to back up the charges.

    I still think the law should be changed, and if the injustice is great enough, jury nullification is a duty far outweighing any other jury duty. We shouldn’t reduce ourselves to agents of the legal code, when we have something more important inside.

    Comment by Dustin — 4/11/2011 @ 12:36 am

  5. How many times do we see the result of one of these types of cases when as you said “the jury didn’t like the victim”

    It happens all too often unfortunately even in my country were we see it happen on a regular basis just because of someones race.

    Enjoyed reading your article….thanks.

    Comment by Peter — 4/11/2011 @ 10:43 pm

  6. Two words. Prosecutorial discretion.

    Vexatious litigants are an excellent use of same.

    Were I a prosecutor, I would try to explain the matter to the tobacco spitter and get a written apology from him that didn’t bind him civilly. And then done.

    (My answer would be different in the case of actual injury.)

    Comment by luagha — 4/12/2011 @ 9:50 am

  7. I still think the law should be changed, and if the injustice is great enough, jury nullification is a duty far outweighing any other jury duty. We shouldn’t reduce ourselves to agents of the legal code, when we have something more important inside.

    Oh come on, jury nullification?

    The problem with nullification is not that we “reduce ourselves to agents of the legal code.” It’s that in order to do so, we have to lie. We have to falsely represent ourselves in the jury selection process. I’m a pretty Kantian / categorical imperative kind of guy, so I’m not a big fan of doing bad in order to do good.

    Comment by CliveStaples — 4/17/2011 @ 10:18 am

  8. Scott

    Its all about the people, they decide justice in the courtroom, not the judge nor the lawyers, sure they aide the process, but its in the hands of the people and the people spoke

    Comment by EricPWJohnson — 4/22/2011 @ 4:22 am

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