Monday, June 19, 2017

Monday At The Bar: Mistrial

The American public is getting an education regarding its legal process via the recent Cosby trial.

I'm not going to go into the allegations in part because I don't follow criminal stuff very closely.  Quite a few people who aren't lawyers would find that odd, but quite frankly just because a person is a lawyer doesn't mean that they follow every aspect of their own profession in the same fashion that sports fans follow a favorite team.  Indeed, most of us don't.  I've done very little criminal law myself and most major crimes leave me queasy in one sense or another, so I don't really pay very much attention to them.

Some you can't ignore, however, no matter what as they're Really Big Deals, and by that I mean big deals in either the true societal sense or, alternatively, in the sense of the press following the story closely.  The "O. J. Trial", for example, gives us an example of the latter.

Anyhow, the jury hung in this one, and a mistrial was declared. So now people are familiar with what that means. 

I wonder if it also means that people personally paid much attention to the legal maxim of "presumed innocent until proven guilty".  I doubt it.

But maybe they have no obligation to on a personal level.  

Certainly hardly anyone thinks that about O. J. Simpson.  It's pretty much universally agreed that he was guilty and that the jury that found him innocent was out to lunch, or perhaps beguiled by spectacular lawyering by his defense team and other factors.

Here, it would seem, Bill Cosby was well represented.  But additionally, jurors might have had evidence that we basically never hear.  The press generally does a really poor job of reporting any legal matter.  In this instance, without knowing the details, at least half the jurors apparently thought that whatever happened, the tort didn't. 

But that takes us back to the public's eye.  No matter what actually happened, Cosby's reputation is permanetnly shot and its never coming back. He's not going to experience a latent revival of his reputation like Fatty Arbuckle, who enjoyed that only briefly.  Indeed, Arbuckle's fall for being accused of a crime he didn't commit lead him to being shunned by Hollywood for a long time, and he only came back really as a director in 1933, finishing a film, celebrated a marriage anniversary, commenting that "This is the best day of my life", and dying that night at age 43. 

Not really a happy ending.

Cosby is well past 43.  His reputation as a family man and a man who successfully became an American icon while also representing the urban black demographic, is completely shot.  Maybe that's punishment in and of itself no matter what his crimes or torts may have been, for leading a personal life of decadent sexual behavior irrespective of its legality.

In the film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence John Ford counseled When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."  The lives of the famous, in the current age, tend to suggest that this is no longer true.

It probably never should have been.

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