America is a 50-50 nation, political analysts say. Red state, blue state, Republican, Democrat, liberal, conservative: We're split just about down the middle, and the partisan wars in Washington and elsewhere show it.
But there's one place in public life where 50-50 isn't good enough. ...
No, when it comes to juries rendering verdicts in criminal cases, only unanimity will do. ...
The Michael Jackson trial is the latest example.
Throughout the trial, Jackson had his hardcore supporters, but it's safe to say they were only a fraction of the fan base he once commanded. Jackson's weird behavior and freak-show lifestyle had alienated the others long since and, we suspect, led most to conclude as the trial approached that he was guilty on some or all of the charges.
But the jury disagreed. ...
Because of that requirement for unanimity, the verdict simply can't be attacked in any meaningful way. It stands alone in a way that even Supreme Court decisions can't match.
True, the talking heads on cable TV didn't exactly nod at the verdict and cheerfully go about their business. ...
But these shrill insults are like mouse bites on an elephant, and even less dignified, too.
There simply is no assailing the verdict. For one thing, the critics didn't sit through the whole trial and the deliberations in the jury room. For another thing, all 12 jurors who did sit through those things 12 ordinary citizens, with a great mix of ages, occupations and backgrounds, as the jurors' interviews after the trial showed agreed to decide, ''not guilty.''
And unanimity is a very powerful thing.
''Not guilty'' isn't the same as ''innocent,'' several jurors were quick to add. They found Jackson's lifestyle repellent and believed him to be guilty of something.
They just didn't feel the prosecution had proved its charges beyond a reasonable doubt.
As a result, the case is closed, Michael Jackson's free and the nation's will move on, fully trusting the considered judgment of, in Shakespeare's phrase, 12 ''good men and true.''
Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald,
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