I can understand why people get interested in criminal trials intellectually, and even why some of those trials can become “sensational”, appealing to baser interests. It’s the same reason people like murder mysteries or whodunnits. Sherlock Holmes could not have become a popular series unless there were something inside of us, or in the way our minds work, that such fictional stories appeal to. So the real life versions understandably command attention.
I can also understand the satisfaction of being proven right, and having that acknowledged, with the caveat that prudence and wisdom would counsel that this feeling is not to be over-indulged. It’s a matter of manners, mostly, a concept that has undergone a sea change in the internet age: a deplorable lack of manners has been unleashed, as any trip to any message board on virtually any topic will reveal immediately. The unmannerly have found so much company that they are no longer ashamed and are dragging much of our popular culture down. I don’t think the bottom is in, either.
In any case, what I can never understand is how some people feel glee or exuberance at a guilty verdict in a criminal trial. To me a guilty verdict is always a sad occurrence, even when I believe it is justified. And the more serious the crime, the sadder it is.
So Jodi Arias was found guilty of first degree murder and now a death sentence is on the table. The mob, led by the execrable Nancy Grace, is already foaming at the mouth and looking for blood. A friend of the victim weighs in:
“It just feels so good … to finally have the truth and be vindicated,” said Dave Hall, choking back tears.
Don’t forget how close “vindicated” is to “vindictive”, David.
The big crowd outside the courthouse “erupted in cheers” at the verdict. Ugh.
By any sane measure this was a horrible incident and a tragedy for all concerned, Jodi Arias included. I indicated elsewhere (near the end of this post) that it was hard for me to see an acquittal on all possible homicide convictions, since self-defense seemed to be belied by the nature of the victim’s wounds. But my opinion, although it is soft since I didn’t follow this one closely, is that although murder with premeditation had some support, it wasn’t enough for a conviction. In other words I think the jury got it wrong here, but I would probably not be able to quarrel with a lesser murder or manslaughter conviction.
I do not think the death penalty is appropriate here under any circumstances, and I’ll venture a guess that the jury will not authorize it.
I’m worried, and I think lawyers and judges should be especially worried, that the unremitting scorn heaped upon juries who acquitted in high profile cases like Casey Anthony’s and OJ Simpson’s has distorted the jury pool nation wide. And it’s yet another failure of the legal profession and lawyers that, far from alleviating this problem, lawyers have often aggravated it. And not only have they suffered no professional consequences, they have ridden their ethically challenged behavior to fame and fortune. And there are more wannabes waiting in the wings.
Lawyers are important for so many reasons, but maintaining perspective and, yes, dignity in the middle of adjudicating some of the worst things human beings can do is among the most important. If the profession as a whole was more introspective, somber and grim on occasions such as these people would be ashamed to engage in their unseemly revelry. Nancy Grace would probably be disbarred and running a psychic hotline, where she belongs.
And we’d all be better off.