March 2, 1997

Column 14

It looks like the circus has come back to Los Angeles. The OJ trial has now started again. Here I was under the impression that he was acquitted in a trial once. I guess that double jeopardy isn't just a part in the TV game show.

I think that in the last one, I had been talking about how the juries in a death penalty trial are selected and the trial in general. I talked about how most young people are excused for hardship reasons, i.e., they would lose their job, or would fall behind in their schooling, so most of the jurors are retired, and usually older people. I'm not telling you anything new when I say that older people usually have strong opinions and tend to be less open minded about things. They are also more likely to believe that the prosecutor and the courts would never put a person on trial unless they were guilty.

I ended the last column talking about how the protection that a person on trial has, have been whittled away at over the past thirty years or so. Yes, there is the occasional person who slips by, but then you are led to believe that this is the case for every person on trial. As a result of chipping away at these protections over the past three decades, the protections for the person on trial are only a bare skeleton of what they are supposed to be . . . or the original intent has been stripped down so much that it is ineffective. So when you hear someone on TV ranting and raving about all the rights of defendants, you should look a little closer. Maybe ask what rights exactly. I think that these people tend to confuse rights with basic fairness. But the next time you hear someone ranting about the rights of the defendant, try to pin them down on what exactly they are talking about. I seriously doubt if you'll pin them down on anything specific . . . just a vagueness about how the system only cares about the rights of the defendants. But it seems to be effective for the victims' rights groups and it gets the politicians votes. I guess that fear is an effective way to herd sheep.

With all of these protections for the defendant having been eroded over time, the chances of a person being wrongly convicted goes up in direct proportion to the modification of the laws and rules of court. So, this brings up an interesting question. When an innocent person is executed and it is later proved to be a fact that this person was executed, even though innocent, should the people who are responsible for this happening also be executed, or sent to prison for murder? There have been a number of cases where this has happened recently. It was ironic that the prosecutor still wouldn't admit guilt in stealing the life of at least four men. Instead, just an "OOOOPS" was all that was heard. I'll bet the same prosecutor would have been strutting around at the execution like he was a hero of some sort, if the truth hadn't come out. It was only a grudgingly given"OOOOPS" at that.

I suppose the point that I was trying to make (albeit, a bit clumsily) is that a death penalty trial is not like you see on TV. The defense doesn't have the freedom to produce last minute evidence that will win the case, nor is the defendant hiding behind laws that favor and coddle him. The defense has to share the evidence with the prosecutor so the prosecutor can find a way to counter it, and there is no such thing as surprise witnesses to save the day for the defendant. One other thing that people don't seem to realize is that the judge has to approve of the defense that the defendant's lawyers will present to the jury. So, the whole process is closely orchestrated and there is very little freedom in the lawyer's defense. At least, it is like this here in California. I doubt if it is much different in the other states. They all tend to have the same basic procedures.

One thing that people don't hear about much is the defendants that do not have representation by an attorney, but instead they will act as their own attorney. This is a defendant that is Propria Persona, or Pro Per. I think it is an interesting phenomena and will talk about it some more in the future.

I want to thank those of you who have written letters of support, they are appreciated. Feel free to write with questions or comments. As I stated in an earlier column, if you wrote to me at the other site, I won't get your letter and so you should write to me here. I will try to reply to everyone that writes unless it is a letter full of venom. So, until the next time.