There is a simple fact about my life: I have a tendency to be fascinated with people who have a far better economic situation than my own.
What this factoid means is that I have been following the corporate scandals of late with ardent attention and a trademark cynical smirk. I have been especially fascinated with the Tyco trial and its many twists and turns, culminating in the much-noted mistrial called on April 2.
If you don’t know the story, allow me to summarize: Two money-grubbing scumbags got away with hauling major dough from Tyco because of the actions of a certain “juror No. 4.”
Tyco CEO L. Dennis Kozlowski and his former chief financial officer, Mark Schwartz, were accused of stealing upward of $600 million from the company. The two were put on trial and faced up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
Yet amidst this nearly certain doomsday, the clouds parted and the two found themselves basked in the cleansing light of luck. The jury was within hours of reaching a verdict on the case when the judge called a mistrial, to the shock of all those involved in the case.
Apparently, the mysterious juror No. 4 had received a coercive letter during the preceding 24 hours.
Juror No. 4 has recently been identified only as Ms. Jordan, a 79 year-old with a bad attitude. She has been accused of calling the Tyco executives “a Polack and a Jew,” and according to The Economist, was the only juror not convinced of the two men’s guilt — a problem in the state of New York, where a jury’s decision has to be unanimous.
Before you accuse me of wasting your precious time with the actions of uptight New Yorkers, indulge me with this: Are these people the people dispelling justice?
The whole jury system is based on a board of peers, but what happens when the peers show their incompetence? Two men who deserve orange jumpsuits and soap on a rope go scot-free to their BMWs and Miami mansions.
It is interesting to me, though, that we live in a country where cookie-baking Martha Stewart is going to the school of hard knocks, while two of the most white-collar men on the planet are finding themselves laughing all the way to the bank — literally.
I understand that the “judgment by the peers” idea is one of the fundamentals of the American judicial system. Still, we Americans are finding ourselves at a critical juncture in which our peers have become unable to judge our actions.
America needs professional jurors for high-profile cases.
It is ridiculous that a single 79-year-old debatably bigoted New York elitist can cause the entire judicial system to turn upside down and liberate those that it is supposed to condemn. And condemn it almost certainly would have done, seeing that all but one juror were irrefutably convinced of guilt.
We seem to be living a grand American myth that the justice system works. Yeah, it works.
That’s why masses of innocent people have suffered the death penalty. That’s why numerous citizens of Middle Eastern background were detained unfairly after Sept. 11.
Professional jurors would not have the luxury of “oops.” They would not have the luxury of ethnic slurs. They would not have the luxury of making a decision without knowing the cold, hard facts. If professionals are allowed to prosecute and defend, then certainly, professionals should be allowed to judge. I wouldn’t trust a board of my peers to judge my actions. Half of my peers think that being conservative means that you save water by turning the faucet off while brushing your teeth.
As for Kozlowski and Schwartz, the prosecution has forcefully declared that there will be a retrial. Yet, after the daunting task of the first trial, complete with 48 witnesses and 12,000 pages of written testimony, a second trial could be leaps and bounds away.
In the meantime, I hope Kozlowski and Schwartz are enjoying spring in New York. I hear it’s positively lovely this time of year.
Anna Piepmeyer, Daily Utah Chronicle, University of Utah