Judge Chris Piazza has it right: If jurors can't be trusted to do what jurors are supposed to do, there's little point in having a jury. We could let judges decide whether a defendant is guilty or not. We could tell the defense and the prosecution to draw straws — that'd take the bias out.
Piazza was asked by defense lawyers in the Curtis Lavelle Vance trial to sequester jurors. Vance is charged with murdering Anne Pressly. The case is exhaustively covered by the news media. Piazza denied the defense request. When jurors are sequestered, he said, “What you're telling them is you don't trust them to follow the law. My experience in 30 years is jurors take this seriously. If we can't rely on them to take their oath seriously, there's not much point in going through this process.”
Piazza applied the same sound reasoning in denying a request that press and public be barred from a hearing on suppression of evidence. A defense lawyer said pretrial publicity would taint jury selection. Piazza replied, “I've always been of the feeling that the right of the public to view these proceedings is one of the most important we have.”
Armed and irrepressible
High-spirited Republicans in Florida arranged for their congressional candidate to take real shots — hot lead, not hot tongue — at a target on which the initials of his Democratic opponent had been carved. When their playfulness was revealed, a leader of the group said they had a right to horse around with firearms. The candidate, Robert Lowry, first told a reporter that his shooting at a surrogate Democrat was “a joke,” then reconsidered and called it “a mistake.” His real-life opponent, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, declined to comment, understandably. One never knows when cut-ups like this will elevate their sights, so to speak, from inanimate target to Democrat on the hoof. A few rounds through the window of Rep. Wasserman's office could cause some amusing disorder. Just the other day, a Republican candidate in South Carolina kicked off his campaign with a “machine gun social.” Contributors blazed away at targets undescribed by the media but looking quite a bit like Nancy Pelosi, we imagine. We would not be astonished to find that marksmen at both the South Carolina and Florida gatherings were pretty well lit when they pulled their triggers. There's never been a time when a major American political party was both so silly and so well-armed. Keep your heads down.