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"Beyond a Reasonable Doubt"



Tux Life's tale of jury duty in a criminal case is meant as an example of "the system working," but I saw the opposite. A slight 17-year-old African-American was charged with participating in an armed robbery of a traveling sneaker salesman when he was 16. The best evidence was circumstantial, and the jurors were troubled by the harshness of the charges and the consequences of a guilty verdict. As the jury threatened to hang, the prosecution settled for a plea on lesser charges. "[A]t the end of the line there is something like justice," the blogger concludes.

But was there?

The reason for the harshness of the charges was surely because prosecutors were hoping to get the teen to flip on his two more dangerous criminal compatriots. The teen refused to cooperate—either because his implausible alibi and case of mistaken identity was actually true (in which case an innocent boy was railroaded) or because he subscribed to the "no snitching" ethos (in which case a plea bargain where he received lesser charges anyway notwithstanding the lack of cooperation means the bad guys got away). One can't be happy with the results in either scenario, especially with the police's indifference towards the robbers' African-American victim.

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy
rmangual@manhattan-institute.org

Katherine Lazarski
Manhattan Institute
klazarski@manhattan-institute.org

 

Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.