Thursday, January 24, 2013

Good Night, Friend

Nancy Grace is providing extensive discussion of Jodi Arias' murder trial, presumably because it's a slow news month and there's not a whole lot else to discuss right now. I should not watch Ms. Grace's program because it's so thoroughly annoying to me, and I am, in turn, probably annoying others by continually complaining about her. I can't help it, though.

Ms. Grace is greatly bothered by a defense motion to drop charges against Ms. Arias. Some of the particulars of this defense motion are specific to this case, but my aunt who's an attorney says the motion in some form or another has been made in every criminal trial she's ever seen. The prosecution presents its case, then  the defense requests that all charges be dropped. That's the way it generally proceeds.   The defense is doing its job. Were the defense attorneys not providing an adequate defense, that by itself would be grounds for an appeal by Jodi Arias. ( In that regard, Nancy Grace should be happy that Jodi Arias' attorney is providing a competent defense for her client instead of foaming at the mouth over every single action undertaken in defense of a client.)   Almost as routinely as the motion is made, it's overruled. I'll hope the motion is thrown out in this case as routinely as it usually is, but even if it is upheld, the world as we know it will not cease to rotate on its axis and to revolve around the sun.

What little I've seen of Jodi Arias hasn't endeared me to her, and I would be less than happy if a mistrial were granted in her case, but Ms. Grace  doesn't acknowledge that anyone charged with a crime is entitled to a competent defense. I don't like it any more than most people do when someone who seems to the average bystander to be obviously guilty is acquitted through apparent jury nullification or walks on any other technicality. Still, our justice system is founded in part on the  presumption of innocence and the premise that it is preferable that ten guilty people will be acquitted before one innocent person is convicted.

The "ten guilty people acquitted rather than one innocent person convicted" premise is, in my opinion, a very reasonable balance. It isn't stated that it's better that ten thousand guilty people be incorrectly acquitted than one person  be unjustly convicted.  Jury instructions, when they give a numerical value, list the ten to one ratio.  Likewise, a jury is not asked to convict a person only if the evidence points past all reasonable doubt to a person's guilt, as opposed to all possible doubt.

In our system, guilty defendants are going to be allowed to walk away from their crimes on occasion. This may be due to prosecutorial weakness (they're human jut like the rest of us), jury irregularities of sorts, judicial rulings ranging from properly conservative in protecting the rights of the accused all the way to giving the appearance of handing the defendant an acquittal on a silver platter, or maybe even simply because the defendant got lucky. The rest of us do not like it when this happens, but reasonable people can accept that it will happen in a system where anyone is only one false accusation away from incarceration or worse.

Nancy Grace, though, is not a reasonable person and cannot comprehend the issues surrounding the presumption of innocence on which our judicial system is based.

I wonder where Nancy Grace is coming from when she talks about what resonated with the jury in the Jodi Arias trial.  How does she know what resonated with the jury?  Did she go to the site of their sequestration to interview them? Does she follow them into the jury room, where they aren't supposed to be discussing the trial yet, even if she were there?

What is a show based  current legal issues supposed to discuss on those days when there's not much news?

An especially precious touch is the "Good night, friend" that Nancy graces intones every night (I think; I don't actually watch the show all the way through very often) while mean-mugging the camera. When one of my friends says "good night" to me, the person doesn't typically give me the death glare while he or she is uttering the words, but perhaps my friends are abnormal.


  1. I can not stand Nancy Grace. She reminds of one of those possessed puppets from some B-flick horror movie...

  2. The Jodi Arias case is all kinds of sick. I'm glad I missed Nancy Grace's commentary on it.

  3. It's not as though most of us share tons of common ground with anyone accused of a heinous crime, but in the Jodi Arias case, I cannot remotely understand what would motivate anyone to do what was done.