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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

The Times, The Onion, Who Can Tell?

Now, no kidding, I am serious about this. This story is on the front page of the Times: "Inviting TV Into Jury Room in a Capital Case".

Now admit it, isn't that a cool idea? Film the jury while they deliberate about imposing a death sentence. Broadcast it nationally on PBS. Sort of like "Survivor", only this time, the loser really gets voted off the island.

Some Texas judge not only manged not to hurt himself laughing at the very idea, he actually agreed to this, as did the defense. Well, the defense had to sign a waiver:

The defendant, Cedric R. Harrison, 17, and his mother agreed to the filming and signed waivers saying they would not use the film on appeal or to seek a new trial. Mr. Harrison is accused of shooting a man to death in a carjacking.

Right. So now, imagine we end up with a videotape of a juror saying "I knew from the second he walked into the courtroom that the little [insert ethnic slur] [insert religious slur] had to be fried. Who cares about evidence, cook him". Well, that won't become an issue on appeal. No, sirree. The subject will never come up.

The prosecutor had some reservations:

The desire to serve on a `Survivor'-style reality television series should not be added to the qualifications for jury service," they wrote.

I'm not so sure. Lots of states have budget problems - this could be a creative way out. Maybe even auction off the right to sit on the jury - condemn a man, get on Lettermen, top ten reasons he deserved to die - yeah, I might like to try that. Aren't meals included with jury duty?

The prosecutors had other negative feedback on this creative concept:

We strongly believe that the jury will be reluctant to engage in full and free deliberation when they are subject to being second-guessed down the road," said William J. Delmore III, an assistant district attorney in Houston.

Mr. Delmore also suggested that a televised jury might be less likely to impose the death penalty. "I don't know that I would want to take a strong position on the death penalty if the defendant's friends and family could identify who is taking a possibly unpopular position," he said.

Oh, c'mon, think of it as a great way to meet people - there are no strangers here, just people whose children you haven't sentenced to death yet.

Now, the judge felt that he was within his authority to allow this, since no Texas precedent barred him from allowing the filming of jury deliberations. Capturing the spirit of the initial ruling, prosecutors responded thusly:

"If a respondent judge were to order that jurors disguise themselves with ski masks and speak only pig Latin during deliberations, the state would be hard put to point to prior decision of this court that specifically addressed the legality of the challenged order," they wrote.

Exactly. Ixnay on the Elevisiontay.

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