The Sound and the Juror
From time to time, I have read of the travails of the Span family after its run-in with a couple of thugs who were conveniently sheltered by the office of the federal marshal ("Lives Overturned," John Mecklin, April 11). It seems that the tender mercies of the federal government never cease, especially in upholding its all-powerful image.
The most disconcerting element of this whole story is not that some individual in his official capacity overstepped his legal bounds. What's new about that? One has only to glance at a major paper, or, for that matter, watch as the LAPD wields its authority for the national audience. No, the worst aspect is the statement from the jurors.
Members of the jury thought that the law, as given, gave them no choice but to convict Darlene and Jerry Span. It is both contemptible and ludicrous for a person who claims to be free to waive his conscience in jury duty. It is an absolute right, even more a duty, to act to the dictates of conscience, whether that conforms to the judge's directions.
In 1670, William Penn was tried for "pleading to an unlawful assembly" in Grace Church Street. The government desired a particular verdict. Five times those jurors refused to return a verdict that the court would accept. They were locked up for two days and nights without food or water, and were fined for their final verdict of not guilty. The jurors remained jailed until their fines were paid. Three hundred years ago, these jurors knew their rights. Why don't today's jurors?
Should U.S. Attorney Janet Napolitano press on with this travesty, she will aptly demonstrate that bureaucrats remain ever the same, and that governments and their agents are continuously pushing the boundaries, using their unlimited resources to encroach on the freedoms of the people. On the other hand, there is no excuse for supposedly free people to be ignorant of their rights, therefore failing to exorcise an evil at its inception.
Members of the public wring their hands, weep and moan about the problems in this land, are completely ignorant of its original precepts and show little inclination to remedy their ignorance. Thomas Jefferson summed it up best: "Those who wish to be ignorant and free wish for something that never was . . ."
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As usual, New Times is very informative and fun to read (April 11). It even included a ballot for the 1996 New Times Music Awards, which I quickly filled out.
What a shame it was, however, to have to write in the Hoodoo Kings under the Best Blues/R&B Band category. Anyone who has ever seen the band live, or heard its latest CD One Foot in the Groove, is probably just as surprised as I that the band was not listed. With the recent addition of Mario Moreno, arguably one of the state's best guitarists, the Hoodoo Kings have only gotten better. Thanks, New Times, for the coverage of local bands and for allowing me to speak my mind.
Brian M. Romberg