Jacko Boxed In

The analysis in the linked article strikes me as very solid. I agree with the academic and journalistic legal commentators that the Michael Jackson verdict will rely heavily upon the closing arguments. The evidence has been less than definitive. Whichever side captures the imagination and the heart of the jury with greater eloquence is likely to emerge victorious, as it were.

About which, some observations.

1) It is my view that closing arguments should be very strictly regulated; they should be limited to recalling the evidence and arguing the inferences. There should be virtually no dramatic appeals allowed, because they create biases that are inappropriate.

Clemency (or outrage) has its place, of course, but much later: when the judge is sentencing or the governor is considering a pardon. Juries need to be focused entirely on the process of intellect and judgment required to produce the best rendering of a verdict from the facts presented.

2) This idea of conviction ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ is honored in the breach rather than the observance [as the Bard said; er, the B(eyond) A R(easonable) D(oubt) of Avon, that is]. Juries are almost always subconsciously applying the civil standard of ‘preponderance of evidence’ rather than the criminal standard of ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’.

In a case like Michael Jackson, the ultimate evidentiary standard may well be: “Does he just look goofy weird? Or does he look nasty weird?”