A Lesson in Good Government

I went out this evening. On my way home, as is my custom, I gave my mom a call. Usually my dad is asleep&#185. Tonight he was not.

The three of us talked for a while. My dad has a cold; he didn’t stay on long.

After all the small talk was out of the way my mom asked if I had seen the verdict? I had not. The verdict in the Scott Peterson&#178 trial was rendered this afternoon.

We had been having an early dinner whe it was scheduled to be announced. Originally I asked Helaine and Steffie if they’d mind me turning the TV on. Then I realized it wouldn’t make much difference to me whether I heard it as it happened or caught it later. I didn’t have any serious doubt that I would hear it a thousand times.

My mom and I talked about how evil Scott Peterson was and then she started to tell me about the jury. They were “eloquent,” she said, though my father came up with another word which seemed more appropriate at the time.

My mom was right. They were eloquent.

I have just finished watching some of the Q&A with three of the jurors. I have no idea if they are a representative sample of the pool in general. I do know if there was a trial whose outcome affected me, I’d like these people in the jury box.

It seemed as if they had taken their duty seriously. They wanted to play fairly – by the rules. They understood that the eyes of the country would be focused on them and the life of one man would be in their hands.

So often what we see with the government are functionaries playing fast and loose with the rules. Just recently Bernard Kerik withdrew from consideration for Director of Homeland Security. The aura of scandal has wafted through the Connecticut atmosphere for months.

It is said that a jury is usually made up of people too dumb to get out of jury duty. Lawyers plot and plan how to manipulate them. Judging by what I saw today the opposite is true. These were citizens who wanted to do the right thing and fulfill their obligation.

Good for us.

&#185 – As I live on Hawaiian time, most Florida retirees live on AST or some other zone where midnight comes around 8:00 o’clock local time.

&#178 – Should it be the Scott Peterson trial or the Lacey Peterson trial? How does one decide? There is precedence both ways: OJ Simpson Trial, Lindbergh Baby Trial.

Memo to Dan Abrams, MSNBC

On Slashdot, the tech/geek site I frequent, there is an abbreviation used when someone makes a comment without knowing what is being discussed. It’s ‘RTFA’ for… well, I can’t say what it’s for, except the ‘r’ is for read and the ‘a’ stands for article.

Please keep this in mind, because I have an RTFA story.

It’s late at night… I’ve been playing poker on the computer and surfing the TV. Friday night after midnight is not prime time. There’s virtually nothing on. I’m the guy who watched “The Secret Life of Air Freight” last night, so when I say nothing, I mean it.

After a while I ended up watching MSNBC and Dan Abrams. I enjoy the show if they’re discussing an interesting case and the panelists aren’t ridiculously defending indefensible points.

In this segment Abrams had a psychologist on discussing the fascination of some women to murder suspect Scott Peterson. I was about to tune away when Dan said he had Googled the subject and actually found a woman who had written a blog entry about how hot Scott Peterson was.

Hey, I’m a blogger too. So I Googled a few of the words Abrams had quoted and found the entry. Only it looks like Dan Abrams didn’t RTFA!


After seeing your quote from the blogger who found Scott Peterson hot, I too Googled it. Unlike you, I read a little farther in the blog. Dan… that was a man, not a woman, who wrote that entry.

Geoff Fox

The moral of our story – always RTFA

No One Pleads Innocent

I was going to write about what TV, radio and newspapers do to a defendants court plea… and I will, but I’m pleased to add a twist.

With Michael Jackson, Kobe Bryant, Scott Peterson, Phil Spector and a zillion others charged with crimes, we’re hearing a lot about defendants declaring their indignation at the charges and pleading innocent.

From Reuters:

ALHAMBRA, Calif. (Reuters) – Legendary “Wall of Sound” record producer Phil Spector pleaded innocent on Thursday to murdering B-movie actress Lana Clarkson who was found lying in a pool of blood in February at his Alhambra, California, home.

Way to go Phil… except in the United States you don’t plead innocent. In reality, the proper pleading is “not guilty,” and there’s an immense difference.

My dictionary says of innocent:

Uncorrupted by evil, malice, or wrongdoing; sinless: an innocent child.

Who wants to stand up to that standard? In fact, having done something, but for whatever reason being ‘not guilty” is a much easier defense.

If you’re innocent you are not guilty. However, you can be not guilty without being innocent. There is a distinction and it’s very important.

Until recently the Associated Press had recommended (in its well circulated style manual) using innocent instead of not guilty. The reason actually goes back to the pre-computer days of set type where the “not” might fall off or become detached from the “guilty.” With computers, that can’t happen anymore. So, a few weeks ago, AP did the right thing and began recommending not guilty as the proper term.

It will take a while for everyone to fall into line, so you’ll continue to hear innocent. But you’ll know lots of people walk without being close to innocent.