Wednesday, May 03, 2006
I am a lawyer. I've been licensed for four years. Before that, I worked in law firms for five years. I did well in law school, and I passed the bar on my first try. I follow legal matters as a hobby. I would say that I am fairly well versed in the law.
But I still don't understand how some juries reach the conclusions they do.
Take, for example, the jury that was considering the death penalty for Zacarias Moussaoui. How does a jury UNANIMOUSLY find that the government has failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt
That the actions of defendant, ZACARIAS MOUSSAOUI, resulted in the deaths of approximately 3,000 people?while finding that the government has proved, beyond a reasonable doubt,
That the actions of the defendant, ZACARIAS MOUSSAOUI, resulted in serious physical and emotional injuries, including maiming, disfigurement, and permanent disability, to numerous individuals who survived the offense?and
That the Government has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the actions of defendant, ZACARIAS MOUSSAOUI, were intended to cause, and in fact did cause tremendous disruption to the function of the City of New York and its economy as evinced by the following: . . .andThe deaths of 343 members of the New York City Fire Department, including the majority of its upper management. . .The deaths of 37 Port Authority officers [and] The deaths of 38 Port Authority civilian employees. . .the deaths of 23 New York City police officers. . .The deaths of 3 New York state court officers. . .The death of 1 Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. . .The death of 1 Master Special Officer of the United States Secret Service. . . [and]The destruction of approximately 12 million square feet of office space.
That the actions of defendant, ZACARIAS MOUSSAOUI, were intended to cause, and in fact did cause, tremendous disruption to the function of the Pentagon as evidenced by the following:How the heck can one rationalize these conflicting positions?The destruction of the Naval Operations Center and the loss of the majority of its staff. . .The destruction of the Naval Intelligence Plot and the loss of the majority of its staff. . .The destruction of the Army Resource Management Center and the loss of its staff. . .[and] The destruction of 400,000 square feet and the damage of over 1 million square feet of office space.
Oh yeah, that's right.
Even more frustrating are the so-called "mitigating circumstances". Here, the jury heard, and at least some accepted, that some of the following constitute Mitigating Factors that should weigh against imposition of the death penalty:
(F) That ZACARIAS MOUSSAOUI believes that his execution will be part of his Jihad and will provide him with the rewards attendant to a martyr's death.So, if he next believes that the most evil punishment anyone could give him would be to force him to eat steak once a day for the rest of his life, we should immediately begin lining up herds of cattle to "punish" him?
(H) That ZACARIAS MOUSSAOUI . . . [had] a hostile relationship with his mother.And this makes him different from any number of other people how?
(I) That ZACARIAS MOUSSAOUI's father had a violent temper and physically and emotionally abused his family.Which of course explains why Moussaoui felt he was justified in murdering a large number of total strangers.
(J) That ZACARIAS MOUSSAOUI's father abandoned Zacarias and his siblings, leaving Zacarias's mother to support and raise their children on her own.Wait a second. I though Moussaoui's father "had a violent temper and physically and emotionally abused his family"? Wouldn't his abandoning his family be a good thing?
(K) That ZACARIAS MOUSSAOUI was subject to racism as a youngster . . .Of course, this is the reason Condoleeza Rice periodically cruises the back alleys of Washington, D.C., murdering transients to relieve the anxiety caused by the racism she was subjected to as a youngster, right?
(M) That ZACARIAS MOUSSAOUI's two sisters and his father all suffered from psychotic illnesses.If this is a factor, shouldn't we lock those folks up, too, as a preventative public health measure?
The Special Verdict Form continues in this vein for several pages. This is ridiculous. If the guy caused the deaths damages that the jury UNANIMOUSLY AGREED he caused, how can the jury fail to find him culpable for the 3,000 deaths related to 9-11?
My guess is that you had 1-3 juror holdouts who were simply unwilling to go along with the death penalty. If so, they should have disclosed their visceral opposition to imposing the death penalty during voir dire. They had no business being on this jury because they were incapable of being impartial jurors due to their bias. I find it incredible to believe that the jury failed to impose the death penalty if Moussaoui did the things the jury unanimously agreed he did. If not in this case, then when?