Saturday, August 8, 2015

In Another Life

Choosing how you vote should not be a snap verdict based on a few minutes of television.
Simon Cowell

The Aurora verdict is in - life in prison. Given the swiftness of the jury's action at every phase of their deliberations, I expected the death penalty. One juror did not see it that way, and could not be persuaded
otherwise. Colorado law is clear on what happens next.

I did not follow the trial closely. Aurora police officers had obviously arrested the right guy. It seemed a foregone conclusion that the murderer would not be ruled insane during the guilt phase (he did too many "rational" things over too long a period of time). The acts themselves seemed also to contain many of the aggravators necessary for the death penalty to be appropriate. Finally, an intentional act of mass murder seems to merit the highest penalty our state allows and, in this case, would be just.

One juror saw it that way right up to the final decision. He/she could not put their name to another killing, albeit one in which the due process requirements of our culture had been faithfully met. What should we think about it? Since I didn't spend a lot of time with this case, let me defer to two very bright women who did - my daughter and my wife.

Paraphrasing (their opinions are similar enough to conflate): The judge was excellent. He maintained control of the courtroom, held the lawyers in check and allowed the evidence to unfold as it should. The lawyers themselves were exceptional advocates for their positions. Each of them "played with chalk on their cleats." That is, they used the full extent of the law, and then some, trying to persuade the jury to see the facts their way. The jurors were attentive, and they took their oaths seriously. 

We will learn as the days go by facts which may reflect on the ultimate decision. We might find, for example, that the lone juror was never going to have a hand in a death sentence, no matter the evidence before them. We might hear of interpersonal friction among the members. We will endure the solemn protestations that we could have had this verdict as a plea agreement and saved the taxpayers millions (Sure. Put yourself in the prosecutor's place for that one).

One person, a citizen of our state, could not, in good conscience, vote for the death of another human being, regardless of how reprehensible his act. Committing him to die a natural death (or a violent one at the hands of a fellow inmate) behind bars was...just. In the end, after a fair trial, this was the considered judgment of a jury. May they now go in peace, having done their duty as citizens, with our respect.

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