August 13, 2002

I remember once seeing a trial lawyer on TV discuss the jury system, describing it as the worst possible method for determining guilt or innocence...except for all the alternatives. That ran through my head as I read this New York Press report from Russell Birnbaum, the foreman for the federal jury in the retrial of former police officer Charles Schwarz in connection with the Abner Louima affair.
The cumulative weight of the evidence was leading us to believe the government’s accusation that Mr. Schwarz held down Mr. Louima when he was violated by Officer Justin Volpe. But this one lone juror rejected the testimony of almost every witness who testified against Mr. Schwarz. Anyone who spoke against Mr. Schwarz was automatically mistaken, misguided, duplicitous. "Liars. They are all liars—or maybe they forget," she said of the prosecution’s witnesses. "How do I know?" In a broad and unmistakable inflection, our obstructionist uttered this generic reply to almost every question.
[S]everal jurors asked our obstructionist if any evidence, real or imaginary, would persuade her of Mr. Schwarz’s guilt. She replied, "I don’t know."
It's worth reading to see how sometimes the most important things in life are decided by a few random, crazy factors.
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