Starting tomorrow: TRIAL AND TOWN!

MONDAY, APRIL 5, 2021

The role of American values: Yesterday morning, on CNN's Reliable Sources, national correspondent Sara Sidner engaged in some unusual conduct.

Sidner was asked to describe what it's like to cover the Derek Chauvin trial. In the course of giving her answer, Sidner actually cited some basic principles of the American legal system—of "Americanism" itself.

Surprisingly, Sidney said this:

SIDNER (4/4/21): Inside of that courtroom, it is about the rule of law, and it is about the prosecution trying to prove their case. And we have to remember, they must prove their case.

Derek Chauvin doesn't have to prove anything. The prosecution has to prove its case and his defense attorney, Derek Chauvin's defense story, has to poke holes in it and that's what's been happening back and forth. This is our legal system. You inside that courtroom are innocent until proven guilty.

Say what? We're sure that Sidner is well-intentioned. But can any of that be true?

Sidner made her unusual claims early in yesterday's program. Here on our campus, the young analysts glanced about, befuddled, in startled surprise. 

According to Sidner, Derek Chauvin—the defendant in this murder / manslaughter case—"doesn't have to prove anything." 

Sidner claimed that it's the prosecution which has to prove its case. She seemed to be saying that Chauvin, as the defendant, is regarded as "innocent until proven guilty," at least "inside that courtroom."

"This is our legal system," she even surprisingly said.

For ourselves, we were surprised, yet not surprised, by the young analysts' reactions. 

On the one hand, the analysts are young and inexperienced. It's entirely possible that they've never heard anyone make such claims.

Also, the youngsters have been exposed to a great deal of punditry about the Chauvin trial. To the extent that this punditry has emerged from the major news orgs within Our Town, it was likely to have betrayed little awareness of, or allegiance to, our basic American system.

Is someone accused of a crime "presumed innocent" within our legal system? Is it really up to the prosecution to prove the claims it's making?

Can it really be true that the prosecution has to prove its case "beyond a reasonable doubt?" Even more incredibly, do all twelve jurors have to agree on a guilty verdict? 

Is it even possible that our system is based on the extremely weird precept known as Blackstone's ratio (but also as Blackstone's formulation)? According to the leading authority on that musty formulation, the precept goes like this:

It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent person suffer.

Who could ever think something like that? Surely none of us liberals!

At any rate, according to that leading authority, this formulation was published in the 1760s. Surely, the analysts said, the formulation no longer holds!

We can't blame the analysts for being surprised by Sidner's unusual statements. 

They'd watched a lot of cable news pundits during the first full week of the trial. Beyond that,  they'd read the work of the "hangin' columnists" who stand in line, at the Washington Post and the New York Times, to express the values of Our Town when it comes to this high-profile event.

Watching those pundits and reading those columnists, a youngster would rarely get the idea that our system is based on the values Sidner described. Watching those pundits and reading those columnists, a person would almost surely end up thinking something else.

We pause for this quick note:

It has long been known that we the people may not be amazingly well informed about the basic precepts of our (admittedly failing) American system.

Other surveys have sometimes shown that we the people may not always agree with some of those basic precepts. Also, of course, there's no requirement, within our system, that anybody has to agree.

That said, it may be a bit surprising to see the way our cable pundits treat the basic principles of Americanism when they go on TV and perform for us the cable subscribers—more generally, for those who live in Our Town.

This week, we'll take a quick look at the way our upper-end pundit class has been discussing this high-profile trial. 

In our view, the work has tended to be poor. Every so often, up pops someone like Sidner, leaving our staffers confused.

We'll now confess to something we thought as we read this morning's newspapers. This is Our Town on Stupid, we thought on several occasions.  More charitably, we also thought this:

This is Our Town on Traumatization.

(We've rarely thought, in the past week, that we were looking at Our Town on Adult Expertise.)

However a person might assess the charges against Chauvin, it seems to us that this trial has deeply challenged the pundit class in Our Town's finer locations. Anthropologists have told us this about the  work we've observed:

This is the way our brains are wired, these top scholars and experts have told us. For the most part, all in all, this is the best we can do.

Tomorrow: Pundit reacts to last Monday's opening statement


26 comments:

  1. "Sidner actually cited some basic principles of the American legal system—of "Americanism" itself."

    But of course, dear Bob.

    Our young analysts say it's because with your zombie cult in power, liberal establishment doesn't need any more riots.

    And riots seem likely if officer Chauvin is acquitted of most (or all!) charges. Tsk, how unfortunate. Alas, your zombie administration would not benefit from it, at all.

    ReplyDelete
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  2. What is the actual ratio of police officers convicted to those who have been the subject of complaints or allegations? Is it more than 1:10?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not a relevant comparison

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    2. Why not, AC? If skeptonomist’s ratio turns out to be correct, would that not suggest an issue of some sort, possibly pro-police bias? Wouldn’t it be worth examining at least?

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    3. This abstract from an article only gives an indirect answer to your question, but it's relevant to race and policing:

      "The perception of little officer accountability contributes to widespread distrust of law enforcement in communities of color. This project investigates how race and segregation shape the outcomes of allegations made against the Chicago Police Department (CPD) between 2011 and 2014. We find that complaints by black and Latino citizens and against white officers are less likely to be sustained. "

      https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/cico.12388

      Delete
  3. O.J. Simpson is a kidnapper, not a murderer.

    ReplyDelete
  4. ‘Is someone accused of a crime "presumed innocent" within our legal system?’

    Who wants to argue against due process? Those ‘"hangin' columnists" of Our Town, apparently. But...

    Was George Floyd presumed innocent by those cops and was he given his day in court?

    There is or has been a built-in deference towards the police in our society, reflected by juries and latching onto what skeptonomist said: cops aren’t often convicted and seldom even charged. There is a willingness to give very broad latitude to cops and what constitutes appropriate behavior in the line of duty.

    Perhaps this case, with so much video evidence, will turn out differently.

    At any rate, this willingness to be deferential to cops is perfectly summed up by something Somerby said:

    “A lot of people get shot and killed by police officers in the U.S. We'll repeat the points we feel we should make every day:

    As far as we know, no police misconduct is involved in the bulk of such cases.”
    http://dailyhowler.blogspot.com/2020/09/the-disappeared-and-dead-why-was.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Floyd would get the same benefit.

      Or should we drop that silly innocent until proven guilty stuff?

      Delete
    2. Floyd is dead. He didn’t get to protest his innocence in court.

      Delete
    3. mh - are you saying that the normal rules of due process shouldn't apply to Chauvin? The discussion on most things in the press, and people in general is shallow - understandably in a way because of how complex everything is. But, the police are the agents of the State, the sovereign, and have special status as far as the use of force to enforce the law. Unfortunately, it doesn't work well all the time, and can be abused. You may not know it, but blacks as well as white defendants get the benefit of the various constitutional protections available, and generally get a fair trial. But that prosecutors might be reluctant to prosecute cops, or that juries are deferential to them, does not mean in every instance, or even in any substantial number of instances, that an injustice has been done. Chauvin has defenses - the crime seems more like manslaughter to me (but the jury will decide). One element of unfairness as far as Chauvin is concerned, is that there is an open threat that if Chauvin is found not guilty, or even if convicted of only a lesser charge than murder, there will be rioting, looting, buildings burned, property destroyed, and quite possible, more deaths. Almost a form of extortion - a defendant might be concerned that this type of thing could improperly influence a jury.

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    4. “it doesn't work well all the time, and can be abused.”

      AC, Isn’t that the point that skeptonomist is making? That it can be abused, but that the agents engaged in those abuses are seldom convicted, let alone charged? Can you not believe in due process as well the idea that police abuses may be only rarely adjudicated because of the bias that exists precisely because they are powerful agents of the State?

      Delete
    5. 'Are you saying that the normal rules of due process shouldn't apply to Chauvin'

      They absolutely should. But being the Trumptard that he is, Somerby claims that press comments are somehoe equivalent to the lack of due process. Somerby is always gravely concerned that the likes of DJT, Ron Johnson, Nunes, Gaetz, Brock Turner, Zimmerman are being criticized in the press, but his concern never stretches to those being attacked by Somerby's idol Carlson. Somerby is a malevolent Trumptard.

      Delete
  5. “Sanders: I Have ‘No Problem’ Going To WV To Push Manchin Toward Progressive Goals”
    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/sanders-i-have-no-problem-going-to-wv-to-push-manchin-toward-progressive-goals

    Will Somerby write a post railing at Sanders the way he did when Maddow spoke about Manchin?

    ReplyDelete
  6. "Is someone accused of a crime "presumed innocent" within our legal system? "

    Somerby is being a buffoon. The press is not part of our "legal system" and they can say whatever they want about an ongoing trial.

    Member of a jury have different obligations than the general public. We can talk with each other and form opinions all we want, and we are not restricted to only the information presented in court to a jury, nor are we restricted by judge's instructions. This provides a check and balance on our legal system. We verdicts are improper, the public can protest or recall judges.

    We play a different role than the one Somerby wishes to foist upon us, in his buffoonery (and his desire to defend even the worst cops).

    ReplyDelete
  7. Sidner's a Murder Apologist!

    And Somerby's defending Judge Roy Moore and Matthew Gaetz! And all other child molesters! And he's a Trump supporter too!!

    Or something like that...

    There, I got all the trollwork out of the way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And a racist lesbian hater.

      Delete
    2. Somerby doesn't all pedophiles and killers. He only defends those who are Trumptards like himself.

      Delete
    3. I mean, Somerby doesn't defend all pedophiles . Only those like Moore and Gaetz, who are hard core Trumptards like himself.

      Delete
  8. From a legal standpoint, police officers are not "brave first responders" so no one should ever refer to them in that way.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Bob,
    Your blatant and obvious bigotry and racism are plain to see.
    Your (make believe) analysts similarly.
    And many of your commentators love you for those reasons.
    You could be as nuts as Trump!
    As the father of a daughter and two sons (all black) and three grandsons (all black);
    If you or your acolytes hurt them I will try to find you and kill you.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Obviously, if the prosecution makes a pursvasive case, the defense better be ready to prove something.

    ReplyDelete
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