We need a new law. Someone needs to write it and do whatever it takes to get it passed, however that is done. If only I was powerful enough and connected enough to be that someone.
“In cases where the defendant is facing the worst possible consequence upon being found guilty of the crime for which they stand accused, the jury, upon reaching a verdict, shall be required not only to relate that verdict to the court, but to present, in open court a point by point explanation of the path of evidence and testimony that led them to this conclusion.”
That’s it, in layman’s terms. That’s what we need.
The jury must be required not only to say “We find the defendant guilty.” They must be required to say “We find the defendant guilty and here is why. This is the path that led us to that conclusion.” We don’t need them to write a book about it after the trial, which is what is happening now in the absence of such a law.
This law would be akin to requiring someone to repeat back to you what you just told them in order to make sure they heard you correctly. It is a very basic principle. We use it in parenting, in marriage, in the classroom, in the workplace. When we do, things run so much better. When we don’t, there can be all sorts of unintended consequences.
This law, being on the books for the worst of the worst of sentences, would apply whenever a life sentence, with or without the possibility of parole, and the death penalty are on the table.
Imagine how this would have played out in the case of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. I can’t resist doing so now:
“Has the jury reached a verdict?”
“We have, Your Honor.”
“We the jury, unanimously find the defendant, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, guilty on all counts for the following reasons:
Judy Clarke said “It was him” in opening statements.
“Given the fact that Ms. Clarke is counsel for the defense, we found this admission not only shocking, but in the end, we found it impossible to overcome or set aside. We found her words to outweigh the “not guilty” plea from the defendant. We had significant debate surrounding this point. We found no other evidence to support our verdict but did not finally feel we needed any.
We did not use statements of the victims in our deliberations, as there were no eyewitness accounts of actual actions by the defendant. We finally determined the testimony of victims to have been presented out of order. To the fact that they will be of the utmost importance during sentencing deliberations, we have no doubt.
We also did not make our determination based on video or photographic evidence as the images were inconclusive at best.
Our final hurdle lay in reconciling the statement “It was him” with the following:
1. The lack of fingerprint evidence.
2. The lack of actual eyewitnesses as to the actions of the defendant at the marathon.
3. The path that extremist material followed from device to device which did not point to having originated with the defendant and which we were told was the motivation for this terrible crime.
4. The lack of proof that the defendant showed interest in or enthusiastically viewed this extremist material.
5. The lack of clearly identifiable images in the videos presented. We found the disparity between what we were told we were seeing and what we could clearly determine with our own eyes to be too great, leaving much room for reasonable doubt.
6. The various receipts for materials used in the commission of the crimes, which we found reasonable to believe did not point to the defendant making those purchases, but to his brother, being backed up with, in some instances, video of the brother of the accused leaving the same store where the receipt would have been generated.
We the jury have a reasonable expectation that defense attorneys spend significant time in conversation with their clients. Therefore, we have concluded the statement “It was him” is based on the defendant’s own words. We believe it to be an admission of guilt. If the defendant’s own attorney says “it was him” that is good enough for us.”
If this type of explanation would have been required by law I have to wonder how it might have affected the outcome of this case and the strategy adopted by the defense. Those prospective jurors whose minds were already made up against the accused would not have been eager to be on the jury, knowing that the verdict full disclosure law would be in play.
And maybe, just maybe, Judy Clarke would not have made the disastrous decision to open her remarks with words I will never forget. I wonder if they haunt her at night.