Saturday, December 14, 2019

Sentence First — Verdict Afterwards

The jury foreman greeted the press on the courthouse steps. “Everything I do during this, I’m coordinating with the defendant’s counsel. There will be no difference between the defendant’s position and our position as to how to handle this.” Then he stepped inside to take his seat on the jury as the trial was about to begin.

As a publisher, I’d have to reject any novel that included such a scene as being too unrealistic. American courts, unlike those of some countries like, for example, Russia, are based on the premise of fundamental fairness. Jurors are chosen with only one criterion: impartiality. In every trial in America, be it civil or criminal, the presiding judge asks each prospective juror if he or she can put aside whatever beliefs or biases they may have and examine the evidence impartially. “Can you reach a verdict based solely on the evidence and not on your personal beliefs, feelings, or biases?” If the juror answers anything but ‘yes’ he or she is rejected and sent home.

The foreman is like a shepherd. He tends to the jury flock. His job is to ensure deliberations are conducted in an orderly manner; that there is open discussion; and there is no bullying. So when the foreman in the same novel says, “There is no chance the defendant will be convicted. My hope is there won’t be a single juror who votes against him,” he’s not only expressing his own bias favoring the defendant before the trial has begun and any evidence has been presented, but he’s shepherding his jury flock to stay in line and vote with his position.

If this novel were set in Russia or another corrupt country, or in any nation lacking the Constitutional notions of fundamental fairness of American jurisprudence, then I might accept it for publication. But before I can toss the manuscript back in the writer’s face, I’m told it’s not a work of fiction: every word of it is true and it happened yesterday, here in America.

The U.S. Senate will convene shortly as the most important courtroom on the planet. It will hear only one case – the trial of the most important man in the world. The outcome will determine whether this individual should keep his job; a position that includes access to nuclear weapons; command of the most powerful military forces in the world; and control of the world’s largest ($20.4 trillion) economy. It is the most important trial ever conducted and its outcome could not have greater consequences. Which is why having the jury foreman announce to the press he’s in cahoots with the defendant not only makes a mockery of American jurisprudence but imperils American democracy itself.

On December 12, 2019, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky who will preside over the Senate trial of impeached President Donald Trump, said to FOX News: “Everything I do during this, I’m coordinating with White House Counsel. There will be no difference between the President’s position and our position as to how to handle this."

Yes, the “impartial” jury foreman admitted on live television he plans to coordinate with the defendant in the most important trial in America. But that’s not all he said.

“There is no chance the president is going to be removed from office,” McConnell told Fox News’ Sean Hannity. “My hope is there won’t be a single Republican who votes for either of these articles of impeachment.” Amazingly, the man responsible for presiding over the most important trial in America just announced the verdict before the trial has begun.

“Let the jury consider their verdict,” the King said, in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.  “No, no!” said the Queen. “Sentence first—verdict afterwards.” We are no longer living in America, subject to the rules of American jurisprudence. We are now firmly ensconced in Wonderland, having fallen down the most insidious rabbit hole ever dug, in 2016.

But while McConnell may have admitted to trying to rig an American institution to favor the most corrupt administration in history (and yes, I’m including Tammany Hall and the reign of Caligula within that definition), this is not the Machiavellian McConnell’s first foray into plumbing the depths of unethical and immoral behavior from a position of public trust. He is most proud of having blocked most of President Barack Obama’s judicial appointments, including not allowing Obama to fill a Supreme Court vacancy. When Hannity said to him, “I was shocked that former President Obama left so many [judicial] vacancies and didn't try to fill those positions,” McConnell replied, “I'll tell you why. I was in charge of what we did the last two years of the Obama administration.” In addition to blocking federal judges, McConnell prevented Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland from even getting a hearing, calling that act “the most consequential decision I’ve made in my entire public career.”

If McConnell were the foreman on a jury in your town, the judge would throw him off. Folks would demand a fair and impartial trial for anyone… even Donald Trump. If you’re a patriotic American who believes in American values, then now is the time to stand up for this American value. Call your senator and demand Mitch McConnell be recused from any role in the trial of Donald Trump and censured by the Senate.

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