Friday, March 19, 2010

Peter Watts: International Felon

I don't have much to say that hasn't already been said by plenty of people. Even if he wasn't a friend, this sucks, and all I can think of to do now is to look to other locations for family vacations for now on. Especially regarding Michigan (which is a shame, since I loved Ann Arbor the one time I visited. Although I totally hated Saginaw: remind me to tell you all that story some time).

Anyhow, here's a news piece, Peter's take (very calm, I might add), and an article from the local Michigan rag that includes the most appalling comment thread you could possibly imagine. Although this one commenter does put certain "thoughts" and ideas to rest:

"As a member of the jury that convicted Mr. Watts today, I have a few comments to make. The jury's task was not to decide who we liked better. The job of the jury was to decide whether Mr. Watts "obstructed/resisted" the custom officials. Assault was not one of the charges. What it boiled down to was Mr. Watts did not follow the instructions of the customs agents. Period. He was not violent, he was not intimidating, he was not stopping them from searching his car. He did, however, refuse to follow the commands by his non compliance. He's not a bad man by any stretch of the imagination. The customs agents escalted the situation with sarcasm and miscommunication. Unfortunately, we were not asked to convict those agents with a crime, although, in my opinion, they did commit offenses against Mr. Watts. Two wrongs don't make a right, so we had to follow the instructions as set forth to us by the judge."

The law is sometimes indeed an ass.

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Thanks, D -- I got so sick of reading the comments, I had to shut down. But this one restores my faith in humanity -- hope the judge does even more.
The failure of the jury to return a Jury Nullification of the ridiculous law mis-used in this case is a travesty of justice, not only for Dr. Watts, but for us all.
Jury nullification is great except that (1) most people have never heard of it, and (2) it's very, very strongly discouraged by the courts. And, I'm quite sure, by jury members who believe in the right of might.

I've been kicked off a jury because I expressed distrust in the story being presented by the police and the prosecution (before voir dire, even), and I may well be kicked off again for the same reason in the future. But a terrifying number of people in our "free" United States seem to accept the idea that if the authorities (especially the police) say it, it must be true, even if many of them simultaneously despise and protest against any more progressive move the government might make.
Charlie Stross has left a comment on Making Light that I think is worth reading (as usual: I find Charlie's commentary on a variety of matters well-thought-out):
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