May 12, 2006

The silent strategy of the holdout juror in the Moussaoui case.

The WaPo reports on the jury deliberations, involving repeated 11 to 1 votes for the death penalty, with the holdout juror never identifying himself and thus never explaining his position.
The foreman said deliberations broke off April 26 when one juror questioned why they should take another vote. "What for?" the foreman remembers the juror saying, "We all know how it is going to come out."

The next day a juror called in sick, and there were no deliberations. That Friday, the jury returned. The foreman told the group that she wanted to send a note to U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema stating that the jury was "not holding deliberations in the true sense of deliberations because the con arguments were not being thrown out on the table so we could investigate them as a group."

She said the jurors did not want any notes sent to the judge, so they decided that the whole group would raise anti-death penalty issues because that way the lone dissenter would not feel isolated or "ganged up on." Deliberations continued, but the foreman said the lone dissenter still did not raise any issues. Three days later, jurors delivered their decision to Brinkema.

The foreman said at the end of the deliberations she felt better about the process but not the outcome.

"I felt frustrated," she said, "because I felt that many of us had been cheated by the anonymity of the 'no' voter. We will never know their reason. We will never be able to hold their reason up to the light and the scrutiny of evidence, fact and law."
This describes a fascinating group dynamic. Why did the lone dissenter remain anonymous? Was he (or she) afraid of the group's disapproval? Or was he instead worried that he couldn't articulate reasons good enough to fight back 11 opponents? Did he remain anonymous out of fear or did he perceive a strategy in remaining silent -- that is, could he predict the path the 11 would take?

The 11 had first to accept the fact that the dissenter was not going to talk and then to realize that they would need to generate the arguments against the death penalty. That meant that they could no longer hold fast to their pro-death penalty state of mind. Instead of deflecting arguments from the outside, they were forced to think the thoughts of the death penalty opponent. They had to state the arguments against their own positions, and in going through that exercise -- which would have been unnecessary if the dissenter had spoken -- they convinced themselves.

Meanwhile, the dissenter could preserve an armored mindset: I will not engage with you. I will sit here forever until you do the hard work of imagining what I'm thinking.

The silent approach seems to have worked in the Moussaoui case. But I wonder how effective this passive aggressive argumentation style is in general. It only has potential, it seems, in a situation like a jury room where the group cannot progress without the holdout's agreement. Jurors, moreover, separate at the end of the task and therefore lack a stake in the ongoing relationships within the group. But perhaps some variation on this strategy could work in a family, where one person has an opinion but feels incapable of arguing for it.

For example, a child might do well saying to a parent: Why do you think I feel this way? I need you to explain my feelings to me. There's no option to remain anonymous like the Moussaoui juror, but the strategy is to decline to offer an explanation to someone who needs your cooperation. And the hope is that in forcing the other person to articulate your position, they will understand and value it more than if you had said it to them.

Law professors can learn something here too. Sometimes we ask a question and a student take the position he believes in. We then might take the other side, pushing back with the opposing arguments, in an effort to strengthen the student's powers of reason and argument. But we can also, instead of arguing back, say: If I were the judge, I'd be thinking right now of ruling against you. Why do you think that is? Would the student be more likely to change his position -- or, better, to end up with sounder beliefs -- than if the teacher had taken the opposing side?

106 comments:

tommy said...

seems to me a juror not willing to participate in deliberations isn't really fulfilling the role as intended.

The other dynamic is knowledge that your reasons aren't valid, and by not revealing them, hoping no one will notice.

Jacques Cuze said...

Sometimes professors act like Henry Fonda too at inappropriate times. They believe they are so right in their analysis, and they also seem to think they can provide a moderate, unbiasing force in the classroom, when in fact the opposite is true. What happens to the students when faced with that?

It might be that they are the last throes of the deadenders in their beliefs all the while convinced of the position and moderation. 29%.

Ann Althouse said...

Number 6: I think the ideal is for students to feel that they don't even know what the teacher's positions are. Pushing one's political opinions in class is an abuse of power.

Scott Ferguson said...

I think passive aggressive modalities in human interaction are much more common and accepted now than they were in past generations. You can even do passive aggression in groups, in "nonviolent" protest which is actually highly aggressive.

Personally, I think it sucks for precisely the reasons the jury forman noted. The silent juror was the biggest bully.

Bruce Hayden said...

Your suggestion for law profs might just work. When I was taking Con law, we covered Roe v. Wade. The prof tried to get someone to take the anti side. The group dynamic was so bad that no one did. He then assigned someone to do so, who happened to be rabidly pro-Choice. She refused. Ditto for another woman. He then gave up.

A large part of the class then filed a grievance against the prof for this, led by the woman with the highest grades in the class. The faculty committee asked them for their proposed remedy. Did they want the tests regraded? No, they just wanted him repremanded.

I thought that the whole thing was silly, as did at least some of the faculty on the committee (I found this out later over wine with them).

But my point here is that he was doing his job - it was most likely his approach that failed. He might have done much better with the approach you suggest.

Bob Mitze said...

Who sets the rules for jury deliberation? Could the members have insisted on a non-secret ballot? Refusing to engage strikes me as a violation of the spirit of a jury. There is a lot of evidence that a consensus gives a better opinion, but the evidence I've seen is based on an open discussion so the issues can be debated. What happened here feels like cheating and cowardice on the part of the lone juror who refused to engage.

Bruce Hayden said...

Let me add to my last post, that it turns out that the Con law prof is strongly pro-Choice. I suspected that, but it wasn't confirmed until that wine tasting with some of the more conservative faculty.

SippicanCottage said...
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SteveR said...

Since this was not the guilt phase and the two alternatives could both be viewed as harsh, I suppose the lone hold out didn't feel any need to justify the position. For me though that person should have spoken up, that's how the system should work.

This was not a Henry Fonda action.

CB said...

My crim law prof used a similar technique. Students would be called on to present one side of a case. After the students gave their arguments, the prof's reaction was usually to shrug and say, "OK...what else have you got?" The students would then have to scramble to strengthen the argument. It was much more nerve-wracking to know that the prof was going to blow off your argument instead of challenging it.

Jacques Cuze said...

Number 6: I think the ideal is for students to feel that they don't even know what the teacher's positions are. Pushing one's political opinions in class is an abuse of power.

I understand that. It is of course a silly position to think that one can keep one's innate and conscious or unconscious positions from being detectable, especially in a situation of close and repeated observations such as a classroom.

Better for all if the Professors were transparent.

Otherwise it's just another bizarro world path to papal-infallibility, and judge-infallibility.

Can a professor so intent on not showing any bias in her views have any ability to accomodate new information and evidence contrary to her views?

Instead of trying to pretend there is no bias out of fear of influencing students, admit to any bias upfront, and treat the students as adults. I myself think foo, you are free to think bar, please make up your own mind.

John Thacker said...

They had to state the arguments against their own positions, and in going through that exercise -- which would have been unnecessary if the dissenter had spoken -- they convinced themselves.

Doesn't seem to me too much that they convinced themselves of the rightness of the holdout's position. They certainly convinced themselves that the holdout would continue to holdout. In fact, the people quoted sound pretty upset about the outcome, not convinced at all that it was right-- though convinced that the process is okay.

PatCA said...

I think what happened was a psychological event, not a legal one. It's the thrill of challenging the unanimous verdict. It happened on a jury I served on, and it was simply one control freak who for some reason refused to go along with the group. A man careened through a neighborhood in his car in broad daylight and hit several parked cars and garbage cans. There were six eyewitnesses. He had no alibi. The car was registered to him. Our Lone Juror also went to the scene, against the judge's orders, and proclaimed "it never could have happened that way." He was very large and agressive so no one squealed on him.

High profile cases like M's I'm sure attract even more highly motivated jurors. After all, our society no longer publicly values "going along with the group" but rather "standing up for what we believe in." I would wonder if this juror had an agenda going in, as the Michael Jackson jurors did. I'm sure we'll find out soon enough.

Jacques Cuze said...

I'm with John. I think it's shameful the way the 11 people allowed themselves to be swayed by one person. What made these people decide to change their votes, and not just declare themselves deadlocked? I wonder if it was American Idol or maybe Stockholm Syndrome. Regardless, a terrible injustice has been done to the American people.

Is there any way we can get even for their perversion of the jury system?

Jacques Cuze said...

After all, our society no longer publicly values "going along with the group" but rather "standing up for what we believe in."

No longer?

David said...

It appears that none of the posters here has ever been a juror. The dynamics of a jury deliberation are fascinating. I usually end up being the Jury Foreman or sharing responsibilities with someone else.

First order of business is to ask the bailiff for an easel and writing equipment which is generally denied. We then take a vote for guilt or innocence in the unlikely event we are already unanimous.

After that, we all know where we stand as a group. We then engage in a roundtable discussion where everyone is free to discuss their position. I take notes regarding their beliefs. They are all treated with dignity and respect.

The lawyers, on the other hand, come in for criticism because of the questions they ask and fail to ask. Let it be said now that you never ask a question you don't know the answer to. Lawyers also need to understand that life experience among the jurors will give them the wisdom to know when they are being lied to or misled by those in the courtroom.

The group invariably is divided psychologically between those who are uncomfortable with passing judgement on others, those with inherent bias, and the majority who understand the solemn responsibility of their temporary Solomonic responsibilities.

While all this discussion is going on, someone has to read the jury instructions. That usually defaults to the person(s) who can read above an 8th grade level. In most cases, after all the talking is done, the answer is to be found in the jury instructions. Usually on the last page, subparagraph whatever, item c, etc., page 119.

Smart lawyers generally give a jury the latitude of choosing a guilty verdict, a not-so-guilty-verdict, and an innocent verdict. This settles much discussion about the exact meaning (this is a contradiction in terms) of beyond a reasonable doubt.

Any fellow juror who refuses to participate is quickly singled out as non-responsive and it usually follows that their mind is made up. They usually have one thing in common. They are afraid to articulate their thoughts, usually for good reason.

It is a rewarding experience. By the by, lawyers make a big mistake if they talk down to juries. Lawyers should put themselves in the position of the juror and ask the questions that juror would want to ask.

The truth will set you free.

Simon said...

The juror is basically a coward, and probably ought to be charged with obstruction of justice. Not because of their vote, but because they refused to participate in the jury deliberation.

Bruce -
I have to admit I've never understood why it is automatically assumed by many people who are pro-choice that they must also be pro-Roe. However, I find it genuinely worrying that you were in a class at law school and not one student was willing to stand up and take the anti-Roe side. I knew the faculty was overwhelmingly liberal, but we are to believe the students are too? That's genuinely worrying.

What exactly was the prof supposed to be reprimanded for, in any case?

MadisonMan said...

High profile cases like M's I'm sure attract even more highly motivated jurors.

I see no evidence for this statement.

I wonder why the jurors used a secret ballot for their polling. That allows someone to hide the reason for their beliefs. If you can't explain why you're voting some way -- even if it's a nebulous explanation -- then I don't think you can be very comfortable with your decision, can you?

So I've been on one jury, and we didn't secretly poll. This jury did secretly poll. Anyone know what the norm is?

Bissage said...

The law granted to any juror voting power equal to that of the other eleven.

This grant of power was not an accident.

David said...

PatCa;

Sorry I missed your post. I had one of those too. Turned him in and finished with the alternate.

It helped that I was bigger than him...

Ann Althouse said...

Number 6: "Instead of trying to pretend there is no bias out of fear of influencing students, admit to any bias upfront, and treat the students as adults. I myself think foo, you are free to think bar, please make up your own mind."

Ha ha. You completely changed your tune. You've adopted the typical lefty position of claiming to be doing a greater good and being more honest by politicizing the classroom. It's all politics, so let's put our cards on the table. I reject that.

SippicanCottage said...
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RichC said...

I've also been on one jury and we did a mix of polling. Our first vote after being given the case was secret. Our rationale is that we wanted to see what the overall group felt, but didn't want people to go public with their feelings that early and so feel boxed in to defending their vote. But later polls were not secret. However, we went back to secret for the final poll (though we pretty much knew what the outcome would be). We ended up hanging 9-3 in favor of conviction (it was a he-said/she-said child sex abuse case with little evidence beyond the statements of the defendant and alleged victim).

luagha said...

The mistake here is the assumption that it would have been possible to 'find an argument' that would have convinced the holdout juror.

If you are faced with someone taking something on faith like, "I am against the death penalty and I don't want him to be killed," then there is no rational discussion to be had, no 'argument' to be found and addressed. Obviously, it was the prosecution's job to make sure that no one with such a belief got on the jury.

But given that, the hidden juror's strategy was perfectly smart. If they spoke up they'd just be subjected to a lot of peer pressure on a topic where their mind was already made up, and you'd get things like where someone says, "Yes, that's a perfectly good argument, but I'm still not changing my mind."

Aspasia M. said...

High school debate has students argue both sides of an issue.

The mark of a good debater is someone who can argue both sides well.

Jacques Cuze said...

Ha ha. You completely changed your tune. You've adopted the typical lefty position of claiming to be doing a greater good and being more honest by politicizing the classroom. It's all politics, so let's put our cards on the table. I reject that.

Actually I was thinking more of college lecturers and their statements regarding strong vs. weak induction, automated theorem proving, the multiverse, and the actions of Joseph Rotblat.

But perhaps to you everything is politics and you worry about it showing up in your classroom.

I don't see how I have changed my tune, but perhaps you can enlighten me.

Jacques Cuze said...

In getting my MBA, I did have one very creepy econ prof (tenured) that wore shorts to class, tried to pick up on the girls, explained that all of philosophy stopped after Hume, and would refuse to clarify his statements beyond his prepared lecture for fear of biasing the students.

Jacques Cuze said...

Oh! How could I forget P vs. NP?

Ann Althouse said...

geoduck2 said.. "High school debate has students argue both sides of an issue."

Law school moot court competitions do this too.

So do many law school exams.

The fact is, you can't make a good argument for your own side if you don't see the full force of the arguments the other side has.

Simon said...

If you are faced with someone taking something on faith like, "I am against the death penalty and I don't want him to be killed," then there is no rational discussion to be had, no 'argument' to be found and addressed.

How would a juror who was stringently opposed to the death penalty have made it through voir dire for the sentencing phase of a capital crime? Wouldn't that be the FIRST question you asked a candidate?

Goesh said...

-he'll get shanked on the yard or in a bathroom and we will forget all about Mousssaoui. I would imagine the boys in the big house have him pretty well marked for shanking, thanks to the hold-out juror.

SteveR said...

Simon: It would seem so..

He'll never be around enough to get shanked, he not going to Folsom.

SippicanCottage said...
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vnjagvet said...

I disagree with Simon on this one. The law requires a unanimous verdict. Each juror is entitled to an opinion, whether it is reached on an emotional level or an intellectual level.

The "lone juror" was exercising the discretion the law gave him or her. How that discretion is exercised is left to the conscience of each juror. In my judgment, and in the eyes of the law, both the juror's vote and method of reaching that vote are unreviewable.

michael a litscher said...

Ann Althouse: You've adopted the typical lefty position of claiming to be doing a greater good and being more honest by politicizing the classroom. It's all politics, so let's put our cards on the table. I reject that.

I went to MSOE for four and a half years. I knew the political leanings of a handful of my fellow students, and could make an educated guess for some of the others, but I didn't have the first clue as to the political leanings of any of my professors.

Politics wasn't discussed at all in the classroom because it wasn't in any way germain to the coursework.

Jacques Cuze said...

Not only do I have an MBA, but I am from Nantucket as well.

Seven Machos said...

The best advice I ever got was from best professor in law school, the legendary George Anastaplo:

"Any person on the other side of an argument will always an intelligent and reasonable justification for what they are doing and what they believe and how they are acting that is not all wicked or ironic. The only exception is genuinely crazy people."

I'm not sure how that fits in here, but it's what I remembered while reading this post and these comments, so I thought I would offer it here.

Seven Machos said...

Hmmm. "Ironic" should have been "moronic."

Simon said...

vnjagvet said...
"I disagree with Simon on this one. The law requires a unanimous verdict. Each juror is entitled to an opinion, whether it is reached on an emotional level or an intellectual level."

Well, if it helps reduce the disagreement (or at least clarify it), I would offer that I'm not suggesting that it's a problem that the juror kept voting no. That's entirely permissable, for the reason you give. Even if the juror is doing it because they have a Brennanite view of the death penalty, that's still okay, because as long as they didn't lie about it at voir dire - that is, they either weren't asked, or they were asked but not struck when they told the truth - then it isn't anything they've done wrong (although I question the competency of counsel in that case). What I'm saying is wrong is their refusal to identify themselves and their reasons for voting no to their fellow jurors. That's the problem I have with it, that's why I think it's a corruption of the process. By refusing to engage in the process, this one juror refused to permit the jury to consider all the apertinent information by putting forward and explaining their vote. If they had voted exactly the same way, and said from the outset that they were never going to vote for the death penalty because it offends their moral or religious sensibilities, I would have no problem with that, in this context.

So maybe you still disagree with me, but hopefully that clarifies what you're disagreeing with. ;)

SippicanCottage said...
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vnjagvet said...

Thank for the clarification, Simon. We are indeed more in agreement.

This juror's technique for expressing his/her vote does seem somewhat cowardly, antisocial and disrespectful of his/her fellow jurors.

But that seems to be the luck of the draw.

If I were giving a seminar to potential jurors on how to discharge their duties, this would not be one of the techniques I would recommend.

Elizabeth said...

I like your proposed strategy of displacing your challenge onto the credible figure of the judge, Ann. My student audience is younger than yours, and almost completely inexperienced in thinking formally about argument (freshman composition students, from a mix of private and public schools), so they see me as their audience, and no matter how I keep my politics to myself, they want to read too much into my reaction to the efficacy of their argument, evidence and reasoning. When I challenge them to provide the counterargument, some take that as me stating my position on the topic; occasionally that will turn up in a course evaluation as "instructor is biased if you don't agree with her beliefs." The irony is that that happens with students who are arguing--poorly--the very position I hold. Using a foil might be a good way to create that elusive fiction of a public discourse that takes place outside of our classroom.

jinnmabe said...

It takes either a truly gifted law professor to keep her political leanings a secret, or a law subject where politics are easily hidden. ConLaw is not such a subject, in fact it's so rife with politics it's downright disingenuous to pretend otherwise.

HaloJonesFan said...

SippicanCottage, why are you link-spamming?

Seven Machos said...

My actual Con Law professor was a screaming Lefty, I'm pretty sure, but I will give me this: he was a jerk to everyone, and I mean that in a good way. I argued vehemently that that ridiculous case where the farmer couldn't grow his own stuff was way out of bounds on the Commerce Clause. He badgered me Socratically on the opposite side. On other cases, when students would take the leftish side, he would badger them Socratically from the other side.

In that sense, he was a good law professor, and maybe that is what a good professor does: take the opposite side, emphatically and seriously, to make you really think about what you are arguing and learn to argue well, and think about what you think you believe.

That's kind of what Socrates did, actually, until they killed him.

neverindoubt said...

can anyone tell us when the requirement for jury unanimity for the death penalty was established in federal courts? I don t recall any discussion of this issue at the constitutional convention or the federalist papers. did this come in at about the time of the Miranda rulings?As it now stands it only takes one determinded juror willing to conceal his/her unalterable opposition to capital punishment to overturn the will of the majority.

Bissage said...

Seven Machos said: "That's kind of what Socrates did, actually, until they killed him."

That is hysterical!

It always seemed to me that the fable of Socrates was some sort of disclaimer. It's like the academy telling you to be like him, but if you're idealistic enough to take the advice, you're on your own.

Way to take one for the team!

Ehud Blade said...

I too was thinking about Socrates. The rather irritating non-saying muse.

All hail the Socratic method. The coy pajama with padded footies, the wrap around security blanket – of saying nothing. As an educational method – beats me what to infer from silence.

I was just reading a University of Minnesota study (April, the American Sociological Review) finding that atheists are America's most unaccepted minority, lacking positive correspondence with any core "vision" on electability scales. No doh. There's another group, however, of voluntary association, the unprogrammed Quakers, where a single silent holdout, amidst all-prized silence, freezes action until something like consensus attains in "the sense of the meeting." But there, silence is a positive value. An affirmative duty. An entry prereq to communion.

Beats me whether the positive values of silence go beyond ad hoc testimonial (pun intended) uses. Unless you're a lion harboring centuries of the adaptive trait of silence, in wait in the African Sahara, for fresh meat. Ah Socrates, the predator. Yum.

But, it's an awfully fun question.

And why are opinions required by convention of Supreme Court Justices, though not of jurors?

Mike said...

This has been asked more than once, but no one has taken a crack at answering it. Why didn't the foremen, at some point, call for a public vote?

Simon said...

"ConLaw is not such a subject, in fact it's so rife with politics it's downright disingenuous to pretend otherwise."

Indeed. The moment they say the words "right to privacy" you can take a fairly good guess where they stand and where they're hoping to lead you.

"I argued vehemently that that ridiculous case where the farmer couldn't grow his own stuff was way out of bounds on the Commerce Clause. He badgered me Socratically on the opposite side."

Wickard v. Filburn
. Another example of a case where you're going to know pretty quickly what the prof thinks.

Ehud Blade said...

... wow, Mike, I assumed. This was, after all, the Moussaoui case.

What Ann didn't say, I assumed. My fault, for assuming. No matter how incompetent Moussaoui was personally, Queda is like 7-11: if they're "not in your neighborhood, they're on your way home." Anyone who can bring down the twin towers and the Pentegon, can find you at home. I assumed – that maybe this juror was scared s**tless. The fresh meat reference, above. My fault, for assuming. Doh.

Seven Machos said...

Juries can do whatever they want, particularly in criminal cases. It really is a great thing because (1) it provides a powerful check on the government and (2) it ensures that society will accept the result.

In this last sense. juries are political actors, and can often help to redress perceived social wrongs by finding a guilty-as-hell defendant innocent as sort of a proxy statement on some other societal ill.

On the last comment, regarding opinions: jury deliberations are confidential. Rendering an opinion would nullify confidentiality.

Seven Machos said...

Mike -- Juries can do what they want. The foreman is nominally in control, but it's not a hierarchy. Perhaps the foreman did call for a public vote, but was persuaded against it.

No one seems to have brought this up, so I will: I bet the jury members have a pretty good idea who this silent juror was. Perhaps it was the foreman...

Ehud Blade said...

Seven, nonsense. It's assumptive only: to say confidentiality is violated by required opinions (I agree with this one part), that hence non-saying judgments are essential to the justice of a verdict.

Mike said...

Good point re: the foreman, Seven. But as you suggest, any one of the 12 could have asked for a show of hands rather than a secret ballot. They might not have gotten it, but the discussion that followed would have been enlightening. Of course, maybe this happened and it just hasn't been reported.

Simon said...

Ehud Blade said...
"I was just reading a University of Minnesota study (April, the American Sociological Review) finding that atheists are America's most unaccepted minority, lacking positive correspondence with any core 'vision' on electability scales. No doh."

I entirely agree; I'm not religious, but I wouldn't vote for an atheist for refuse collector, let alone a job of any real import.

Seven Machos said...

Jury members obviously may speak after the fact. If they don't, no one can make them speak. I don't think assumptive confidentiality is not so much different than regular confidentiality, whatever that is. I think this would be arguing semantics.

Ehud Blade said...

Seven, c'mon. Try this. Require opinions reasoning from fact to law.

Show your homework.

Preserve anonymity via unsigned opinions. Grant wide berth in standards of scrutiny on review (agency review): overturn verdicts on high standards of clear non-sequiturs from fact to law/applications. I'm not advocating this: just playing it out. If the idea dies, it shouldn't be for lack of imagination.

The issue of silence gets real. Was the Colorado juror penalized (verdict overturned: I think it was a death penalty case too) in the recent Colorado case just because the juror admitted that he referenced the bible in his judgment? – better/acceptable to keep silent, whenever a juror in fact bases a death penalty judgment on the bible, not on the law? If such departures when admitted are valid grounds for overturning verdicts, then why sanction them via silence? – why not require proof of homework? – the expressly public nature of jury duty reduces to the private cloister of a single-silent mind?

Mike said...

Simon - I'm an atheist and I think I'd make one damned fine refuse collector.

Seven Machos said...

George Anastoplo once related an interesting story in class. He said that a former student came to his office, in need of a stiff drink.

Apparently, the student had been on a team arguing a case. During jury deliberations, he was sitting somewhere where he could hear the jury deliberations. He shouldn't have listened, but he did for just awhile, and he was appalled. The jury discussions related to absolutely nothing that either team of lawyers had presented, did not relate to the law at issue, and had no bearing on the nexus between the relevant law and the issue to be resolved. The student was horrified.

We don't WANT to know what goes on in jury deliberations. These are normal people with no legal training, and they may or may not reach a decision that has any relation to the law or the issues. The jury is probably the most pragmatic invention ever. It WORKS. It often achieves justice. Equally importantly, it gets to a result that society will accept, because it was made by the people of society.

Juries are like hot dogs. You like them and they are good but you don't want to know much about the process.

Finally, trial judges don't usually write opinions, either. At trial, what is at issue are facts. Opinions get written at the appeals level, when what is at issue is the law. And much of what goes on at trial is the lawyers jockeying for position in the appeal.

Marghlar said...

I entirely agree; I'm not religious, but I wouldn't vote for an atheist for refuse collector, let alone a job of any real import.

Simon, I find that a tad whack. Why on earth not? What relevance do one's religious beliefs have for holding political office?

Would you vote for an open agnostic?

----

Re: the general dispute -- I agree that if the 11 had wanted to know who it was, it would have been easy. They could each have declared their own viewpoint, and isolated the holdout.

It seems like this was a deliberate decision by the majority, to respect the holdout's desire for anonimity. I think that debate probably would have been better for the process, but the choice was theirs to make.

Ehud Blade said...

Simon/Mike, great riffs. Too much fun. What jazz band you guys play?

Damn Mike, if you create the "godforsaken" mess, then you sure as hell outta be elected to clean it up ;). Mike, if the Minnesota socio-study's accurate (I think it's not really a finding, but a tautology), then you've shown more courage here than gays, lesbians, and all other minority groups! You've come out of the closet – of silence! One summer, the tiny little village where I lived had a fiscal problem. Not enough dough to fund the trash truck. I volunteered. With a few other dopes. Great perks. Thankful people left cases of Bud on the curb. Is true. I swear. One hot summer day, a plastic trash sack that I hoisted over my head, burst open. My fat mouth was so agap, that some maggots went down my throat. If you get elected to that job, man, especially as an atheist, you're prolly going to have to swallow - a lot.

Out!

Jacques Cuze said...

The secret ballot will be the death of America yet!

Ehud Blade said...

Seven,

Last shot across the bow.

Anastoplo sounds like a former con-law prof of mine, Cass Sunstein, blathering on NPR that "we" (ah, the myth of the "we" – as in your post) really don't want courts or juries involved in reviewing the Florida election results, because "we" really "don't want to know how many maggots are under the rocks, now do ‘we.'"

Not that the economics of ignorance have no place.

But, message to Anatospolo and Mr. Momma Cass – speak for yourselves. Not, "we."

The anonymous pseudonymous (Hieronmous Bosh?) is a good plot-line for mythological masked masqueraders in the movie, "V," and masks make the ballroom dance that set the stage for murder in Poe's "Murders in the Rue Morgue," but, all the while we admit that the "reasonable person" is a patent fiction, we still trust juries to find this fiction something more than poetic diction, and by golly, we publish the galldarned "fiction" as a public standard nonetheless, and not one behind which to hide "unreasonable" persons.

Peace, out.

Seven Machos said...

The whole of Anglo-American law is based on the fiction of the reasonable person. The entire edifice of the United States begins with the fiction of "We, the people."

Where are you going with this?

CB said...

Would you vote for an open agnostic?

I don't know.

*rimshot

Simon said...

Marghlar said...
"Simon, I find that a tad whack. Why on earth not? What relevance do one's religious beliefs have for holding political office? Would you vote for an open agnostic?"

Well, the easier question first: I'm an open agnostic myself, so yes, I'd vote for one. ;)

I think it's axiomatic that politics rests in the main on morality, and morality is greatly impacted by religious beliefs, whatever those beliefs are. To say you are an atheist is to say that your moral system is unconstrained by anything greater than yourself and your own perception; the argument's similar to the comments I made here about textualists - who are sometimes imperfectly constrained - vs. living documentarians, who are not constrained at all. I'm trying to compress a fairly large and abstract notion into a small space here, and may not be doing well.

Seven Machos said...

I tend to agree with Simon. Saying you are an atheist suggests quite a bit about your view of morality, doesn't it? And your view of morality will play a substantial role in how you legislate.

It's certainly no worse than "I won't vote for someone who opposes a woman's right to choose." It's just more of a meta-rule, not a single-issue rule.

Mike said...

I find the argument, which I hear repeated constantly, that without religous belief we can not have moral behavior, to be patently absurd. I have no problem distinquishing between moral and immoral behavior and I bet my beliefs in that regard are pretty close to yours (and to most others).

Seven Machos said...

Atheists don't have a great track record for good governance in history. Of course, neither do many religious people. I'm merely suggesting that if you want to have a rule that you won't vote for atheists, it's not unreasonable.

Marghlar said...

Sorry, Simon, I'm with Mike. Nothing prevents an atheist from having an ethics -- it might even be better considered than the ethics of many religious people.

You seem to confuse faithfulness to a deity with faithfulness to an ethical principle -- the questions may overlap, but they are not an isomorphism. Ethical principles can have a number of sources; religious traditions are only one possible source. Ethics can come from social custom, philosophical study, or personal reflection, as well as from religion.

Furthermore, announced religious scruples need not be actual scruples. Every single American president has been an announced Chirstian, and not all of have been saints. I have seen little evidence that atheists as a class are statistically more unethical than Christians. My life experience has tended to teach the opposite lesson.

(And before anyone starts in on this -- I am not saying that there have been no evil atheists. I am saying that there have been evil members of any religious group you can care to name.)

Mike said...

I think my ethics come simply from empathy which, frankly, makes a lot more sense to me as a basis for ethical behaviour than some mystical entity from on high.

Ehud Blade said...

Seven,

I'm far more a biologist and biophiliac by nature, than jurist. When you ask me where I'm going, I already told you.

I'm going nowhere. Except to play an idea through. Think, discovery.

Or, do you think I'm hiding bias behind, ah, juror silence?

To what extent my bias has a bottom line, I'll cop. For fun, I'll try.

I agree with biological findings (see Trivers and others) that stuff like cognitive mimetic deceptions by silence (including juries getting away with not publishing opinions), across the animal kingdom can backfire as nonadaptive mental drains on our limited neural resources, because we're required to keep a "registry" of our deceptions, in order to adapt to ecological truths, like how, where, and when to find prey and other environmental resources.

I've never been a fan of truth by coherency criteria. Except in maths. So, I don't expect air-tight reasoning from friends, or juries. We're rough and tumble animals, capable of amazing nuance, subtlety, and even grace, to be sure, though fragile in our resources in knowing "truth," and more fragile when pressed by silence.

Sure, publication is no guarantee of truth. We may and do publish lies; but, we publish for a reason, into our collective registry. I don't see the benefit of unpublished reasons for verdicts, not against the costs of the sort of paralysis that Ann mentions and exhibits in her lead-off questions; the paralysis of protean questions stemming from silence. See my note on Trivers and the drain on our faculties for keeping a registry of truth, above.

The "fiction" of a "reasonable person" (or any other "we) published by a judge's monologue to a jury requires a certain trust in the truth that this fiction is accessible and applicable in real life, that is, a trust that this fiction is not lost amidst the mental drain of all the other "fictions" inside the registry of private, silent minds of the jury.

That's why we question juries in the first place.

And that's why post-hoc review of required opinions might not be a bad idea.

If you value non-saying jury anonymity as you say you do, then I agree that there's still an innate if plastic biological sense in most of us, a raw, gut-drawn feeling, that a certain outcome is more or less true, more or less valid, more or less sensible. While individuals vary widely, we preserve this sense across a population as a whole. In a social world where we publish the standards of our fictions, in the hope that willing jurors (a mini-population, really) may keep their mental registries of truth reasonably clear enough to muddle their way to a verdict, by applying a fiction, there are ways other than mute silence to protect juror anonymity.

Sure again: we may and do publish lies. Our lies tax our limited mental registers of truth. See the meltdown in Ann's questions. But, we also trust that fora of review can discern these lies or errors. Jurors, again, as mini-populations; as schools of fish registering the presence of predators, as sentinels in primate communities guarding community gates. And so on. Publish up. Fess up. That's my bias.

But, my biological bias about juries as a mini-public registry needn't be true (and it's really irrelevant), in order for the policy reasons to hold in favor of requiring published opinions by jurors.

Your real beef about protecting juror anonymity can be taken care of by other means – like unsigned opinions.

Marghlar said...

Mike:

Exactly. I've always been mystified by the majority's belief that an omniscient, omnipotent deity cares so intensely about the minute deatils of the procreative practices of one particular species of apes.

It's like Einstien being fascinated by Baywatch reruns...

Marghlar said...

Ehud et al:

In fact, modern juries, at least in civil cases, are often asked to explain their verdicts by answering special interrogatories. The sky does not seem to have fallen -- and it is hella useful when trying to determine the collateral estoppel effect of a verdict.

Ehud Blade said...

Marghlr,

Great point about special interrogatories. I'm piqued. Because all my dance about required opinions (and it's really just a dance, a rain dance possibly going dry) may impose an unreasonable burden on otherwise capable jurors who simply melt-down at the prospect of publishing anything more than notes on napkins. Hell, I can't even write down phone numbers of really pretty women – accurately. So, your point about special interrogatories could compliment other post-judgment question-asking. A really good point. Something to think about.

Jacques Cuze said...

I nominate this thread for most baked.

Seven Machos said...

I think we need to make a distinction here between criminal law and civil law. In a civil case, in addition to all the special interrogatories, a judge can THROW A JURY VERDICT OUT. Not so in a criminal case. In criminal cases, the jury's word is final on the facts.

Ehud, you must have had Cass Sunstein and a bunch of other Deep Thinkers because you are missing the procedurally obvious here: at the TRIAL level, particularly in criminal cases, there aren't opinions. And becasuse juries are under no obligation to decide relate the facts to the law, there is no need for an opinion. An opinion to explain what?

Further, there is real value to secret deliberations. People will do things in secret that they would never do under public scrutiny, or if what they did had to become public later. You know this to be true simply by thinking about your own nature. Taking secrecy from juries robs them of one of the most powerful aspects of the jury process.

Marghlar said...

Seven,

You seem to be skipping the step whereby you show that a secret deliberation is likely to be either more accurate or more just.

Just because people will do things in secret they wouldn't do in public, I'm not sure that such things are better.

Ehud Blade said...

Seven -- ah, the all-divine god of the "procedurally obvious" crosses the naturalistic divide. It "is!" So, it "ought!"

End of discussion.

Now, get me a beer.

Forget Cass on deep knowledge. If it's deep you want, get Martha Nussbaum on your silent, non-saying lap (the book: not the woman) for a rigorous bounce or two of silent pleasure -- ah, volume 2? -- "Love's [Silent] Knowledge."

Okay, you win. I agree. Jurors are better silent. We should use them as test crash dummies. Especially better silent than vituperative wenchy-question-asking law proffy type women. And who said Rosie got bitchy-mean when she admitted being a lesbian? I thought she was just miming law prof types.

You win. Silence is golden. It's the only way out, Neo, you can't be told what the Matrix is – you can only be shown.


Gotta get the hay out of there ("there must be some kinda way outta here ...").

Seven Machos said...

Marghlar: The proof is in the pudding. What's your take? Is the criminal system just -- at the trial level -- or is it unjust? My sense is that it is just. My sense is that juries generally arrive at the right decision, or -- and this is VERY important -- at least as often as would obtain from any other system.

What I feel like people are missing the societal importance of the jury and the jury process. There will be no upheaval (usually) when 12 random people come to an unanimous decision, for whatever reason. The same cannot be said for a judge. Judges are part of the system. They are far more corruptible (not that juries aren't corruptible, but it's hard to obtain SYSTEMATIC corruption when you have to corrupt 12 new people every time).

AlaskaJack said...

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,..."

The atheist, by definition, would have to agree that this is a false proposition. If he holds this statement to be false and yet still claims to believe in the equality of human beings and in unalienable human rights (and he wants people to believe that he still believes in these things), then he has the burden of providing a coherent explanation as to why he thinks such things really exist. If he cannot do so, he cannot be trusted with political power.

Marghlar said...

Seven: I think the problem is that all that is, is your unfounded opinion. You have no metrics at all to support your assertion that a blind, unanimous jury verdict is more accurate or fair than an alternate system (such as Ehud's proposal, or trial by judge).

Statistics tend to show that judges and juries would reach the same result in about 70% of cases. Regarding the remainder, juries are markedly more lenient. However, to say that juries do better than judges would require you to:

1) Have a metric to determine which result is objectively "correct" -- and such a study would be difficult to the point of absurdity.

2) Have a study that avoids the selection problems (df's get a right to jury trial, and will only waive if they view it as in their self-interest) that plague this area of research.

The key problem here is that at the margin, the question of what outcome is "right" gets very, very hard. Judges and juries tend to split most often in cases in which they evidence is very close -- cases that essentially come down to a judgment call. Judges have seen a lot more criminals in their time than juries have, and are less likely to give an indicted person the benefit of the doubt. Juries are more likely to be lenient.

Since in all such cases (where the evidence hovers near the line of "reasonable doubt") the defendant is probably guilty, the judge has a higher probablity of reach the "right" outcome in the face of indeterminacy than does the jury, in the sense that the odds are that any such defendant is more likely to have committed the crime than not. However, the more difficult question is whether the Reasonable Doubt standard is actually met in such cases. That seems to be a question so indeterminate as to be metaphysical. We don't define Reasonable Doubt very much, and we certainly have no algorithim by which to apply it to facts. How can you say, then, that any particular verdict is more correct than another, when the cases are close?

Marghlar said...

Alaskajack:

That statement is in the Declaration, not in any governing document of our political system.

The Constitution nowhere mentions a creator. It is easy to believe that the Constitution is a supreme law of the US that trumps statutes, without believing in a deity. Indeed, belief in a deity seems irrelevant to the authority of the Constitution.

Shouldn't you be more worried that those with strong religious beliefs will follow them to the exclusion of the civil law? (A claim that was often made about Catholics, e.g.) Atheists do not have to be worried about sinning while they uphold the law. Ergo, they may in fact be more faithful guardians of the laws' meaning.

Jacques Cuze said...

You "moderates" are for corporal punishment and torture in prison and are for getting rid of the atheists in American Society.

He gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the blonde tresses. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Ann Althouse.

Seven Machos said...

Marghlar:

1. I happen to live in a country with no jury system. I would suggest that the legal system is far more oppressive here.

2. I would suggest that a better comparison would be countries with juries vs. countries without them.

3. If 12 random people are fine letting a criminal go free, I am fine with it. The most important thing to me is not getting it right at any one time, but diffusing power and maintaining as many checks against governmental power (domestically) as possible.

4. The "broken windows" theory holds, among other things, that there are really only a few people who are criminals. If you don't get them for one thing, you will get them for something else. Judging from your stats, it sounds like a guilty criminal has only a 15 percent chance of going free. That person is unlikely to commit two crimes and get away with in. So long as policing is good and sentencing guidelines are strict and followed, it will work out.

5. Finally, prosecutors make it hard on criminals to get jury trials. That's just a fact. It goes like this in plea bargaining. Cop a plea, get the lowest sentence. Take a judge trial, get a worse one. Go to a jury, get the worst trial. The prosecutor AND the judge will be upset because of all the resources a jury trial takes. Criminals have to be confident that they stand a chance before going to a jury.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike said...

AlaskaJack - Oh puleez! Marghlar is right. Not in the constitution. But I also have no problems whatsoever with the sentiments expressed by those words. I believe in them deeply. I do hold those truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, they are endowed with certain unalienable Rights,..." and if you want me to insert the words "by the Creator" when I say them, I have no problem doing so. And I don't feel like a hypocrite in doing so. No big deal. I feel no need to argue the point, no need to convert you to my beliefs.

Marghlar said...

Seven:

I think there are just too many independent variables to accurately measure the effect of a jury, so all this is just speculation.

Vis a vis the last point: can you cite anything for that, or is that just a raw assertion? In my experience, prosecutors will make deals to get pleas, but don't really make a big whoop over whether or not there will be a jury. In several years of working with prosecutors (as an outsider), I have never once heard of the phenomenon you describe.

I've seen a fair number of bench trials, and have usually been impressed by the impartiality of the judge. I've also seen some good quality jury trials. I don't think it makes a big difference in the end. Given effective enforcement of rules requiring recusal, and adequate protection of judicial independence, I see little reason for concern about the horrors of trial by judicial officer.

Either way, you are likely to get a pretty fair shake. The real protection for criminal defendants is the reasonable doubt standard, which broadly protects the innocent at the expense of letting some guilty parties go free.

Jacques Cuze said...

Uh, uh, Slippery, all of that came out in the Zacharias Moussaoui threads. As I recall, the self-identified liberal Marburg was very much for corporal punishment and torture of prisoners. It got so icky that the Divine Ms. A had to step in and tell them all how shameful they were.

Moneyed Brains!

Seven Machos said...

I cite my experience in the public defender's office of the drug felony division of Cook County Court. If you go to trial, you totally screw up the docket and consume massive resources. The prosecutor will recommend the maximum sentence. The judge will give it. Should have copped the plea. The trial-by-judge trials usually lasted about 20 minutes and ended up with tougher sentences.

I also add that the prosecutors and the judges work together every day, meet every day to discuss plea bargains, and generally have a cozy relationship. Nothing wrong with that, but always good to get 12 independent people in there who stand athwart the coziness, ready to make their own judgments.

I would also add that, in my experience, you would be very surprised at how seriously jurors take their jobs, even if they don't base their decisions on IRAC. They do want and feel an obligation to do justice, whatever they may perceive that to be. Also, the act of wringing unannimous agreement makes the jurors think through their decisions.

Marghlar said...

Seven:

Nothing I said was meant to derogate jurors -- I think they mostly do a good job.

My experience of the Cook County system has been more positive than that. I think there are some bad apples on the bench there, but I thought most people were interested in reaching the right result. Resource scarcity does make that hard on all parties, and I'd like to see better funding for the PD so that each client can get more face time.

Simon said...

Quxxo said...
You "moderates" are for corporal punishment and torture in prison and are for getting rid of the atheists in American Society.

How on Earth do you get from the statement the I would personally not vote for an atheist to an imagined desire to banish them from society? There is a state of being somewhere between public office, on the one hand, and the phantom zone on the other, you know.

Simon said...

Marghlar said...
"The Constitution nowhere mentions a creator. It is easy to believe that the Constitution is a supreme law of the US that trumps statutes, without believing in a deity. Indeed, belief in a deity seems irrelevant to the authority of the Constitution. Shouldn't [one] be more worried that those with strong religious beliefs will follow them to the exclusion of the civil law?"

Much of this, I agree with. Positive law is the only kind of law enforcable by the government of the United States, and the operation at an abstract level of the branches of the government do not require religion. However, the Constitution leaves to the discretion of legislators virtually every question of public policy, and that inevitably implicates people's moral beliefs. I realize that not every atheist is Stalin, and I do not suggest for a moment that every Christian is virtuous, but I feel much more comfortable voting for someone who is at least on paper constrained in their discretion by a system of morality that exists beyond their own control.

AlaskaJack's comment is interesting, because I've sometimes wondered why it is that those who advocate judicial transnationalism - or more accurately, instrumentalism in search of a rationale for courts imposing the morally correct answer - are also those most likely to not be tethered to an external belief system to guide their idea of what should and shouldn't be imposed. If there's anything more terrifying than judicial paternalism, it's judicial paternalism in the service of unfocussed nihilism.

altoids1306 said...

This is ridiculous - they didn't give Moussaoui death because of an anomymous juror? (Certainly, there is some irony in condemning a juror for keeping his/her identity hidden, when I myself am anomymous - although the situations are hardly comparable.)

If this is a strategy, then the game needs to change. Have open voting, or at least have the foreman look everyone in the eye and ask them how they voted. It's completely unfair that the silent juror refused to make his/her beliefs open for challenge.

On the other hand, it's just what I would expect from someone who would grant leniency to a terrorist.

AlaskaJack said...

Though we have wandered far afield from the topic at hand, Ann hasn't kicked us off the air yet.

My point about the nature of unalienable rights as expressed in my quotation from the Declaration of Independence is straightforward: the fact that an atheist must hold that the propositions expressed in that quotation are false raises serious questions about what he really believes about the nature of equality and human rights.

Marghlar, in a text book demonstration of the logical fallacy of diversion, does not address this point but rather exclaims that the Declaration of Independence is not part of the constitution as if this were the issue under discussion. He has apparently satisfied himself that this puts the matter to rest. Of course, it does not.

My question remains: if our atheist politician denies the truth of the "self evident" assertions expressed in the quotation, why, in the absence of a coherent explanation, should we take him seriously when he says he believes in equality and unalienable human rights? And this raises a second question: if he cannot provide such a coherent explanation, why should we entrust him with political power?

Mike said...

Alaska Jack - I don't deny that it's self-evident. I think it is.

Simon says "I realize that not every atheist is Stalin" How generous of you.

Mike said...

Simon - Man, you presume a lot. "Unfocussed nihilism." Wow. "Nihilism "a: a viewpoint that traditional values and beliefs are unfounded and that existance is sensless and useless. b: a doctrine that denies any objective ground of truth and esp. of moral truths."

This is about as far from my beliefs as is possible. I'm as conservative as they come. I believe in "traditional values", but I don't believe that they need to be imposed from the outside to be valid. I most definitely do not believe that existance is senseless or useless. As I think I have already made clear, I do not deny the existance of moral truths. I reject "judicial transnationalism".

I say again: you presume a lot.

MadisonMan said...

Alaska -- it's very easy to agree that the writers of the DofI believed in a Creator, and that is to whom the We in "We hold..." refers. I should think an atheist could agree with that sentiment very neatly -- and hold the meaning of the words close to their hearts without any internal contradiction whatsoever.

When I converted to my present religion, one of the sponsors said something very silly or very profound, take your pick: "I don't know if I believe in God...but I think that's what he wants and that's okay."

So I'm not an atheist, just a doubter, but I'd vote for an atheist in a heartbeat if they gave me clean government at a modest scale that paid for itself without borrowing.

Juror said...

The jury did, indeed, use anonymous voting. That was a group decision. So, in effect, no one "explained" his or her vote. We discussed the issues and then passed a cup around the table and each threw in our vote.

There were, however, some dissenting views voiced. In fact the foreperson is quoted as saying, "most of the arguments we heard around the table were" in favor of the death penalty. She didn't say "all of the arguments". In other words, there were some, but not many, dissenting views. It was up to each juror which views to embrace.

Marghlar said...

Simon, Mike is right. You need to use a better term than nihilism, which connotes much that the vast majority of non-theists do not believe.

AlaskaJack: you demand a rigorous grounding of moral principles? That is interesting, because religion offers no more rigorous a grounding than the argument from authority. X said so, so this is ethical. So, theists get to import their ethics based on faith alone, but atheists need reasons? Give me a break.

The passage from the declaration you quoted is a non-argument, taking those positions to be axioms of a moral system. Such an approach is equally valid whether you do so because you are aculuruated to those values or because you believe your God tells you to do so.

Many atheists do have the kind of reasons you demand. Most rigorous philisophies of ethics do not depend on religious premises, so you can take your pick.

alaska said...

Going back to the original issue. My thought is that, based on my experience as a juror in a hung jury in a murder trial: if people are upset with you, or you think they'll be upset with you based on the way they're talking about "the anonymous no vote," it's normal to stay anonymous. I didn't, and I had people yell at me, tell me they weren't going to talk to me again, basically treat me terribly. We went from 13-2 acquittal to about 6-6. I was one of the 2 that voted guilty throughout. I was 18 at the time, and I had older people, including a strong-willed businessman, and a mature woman, go right after me personally, my age, lack of whatever. It was intimidating. If someone feels intimidated and they know they're in the minority, it's normal to keep your mouth shut. You can't imagine what it's like till you've been there and taken the heat.

amba said...

I really like the idea of this as a parental or interpersonal strategy. It's a Golden Rule exercise: it's not so simple to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you," because they might not want to be treated the same way you do. What they want (and it's what "you" want, too) is to be seen as they are, which can only be done by an exercise of imagination. That's what this would require. Try to put yourself in my shoes. It reminds me of a great acting teacher friend of my husband's who said we have every possible human emotion and situation potential within us. You don't have to have lived something to act it (he was anti-Method, pro-imagination). Or to imagine it and empathize with it. Very cool. I might try it sometime "in the field."

GreatBlue said...

The silent strategy may, as several posters seem to have pointed out, not been so silent. Perhaps we have a person who is not very good at standing up for what they believe in arguments, and ends up regretting giving in on principled issues later. How could such a person live with 'blood on their hands' if they did not believe that in this case the death penalty was called for. So they take the out of suggesting or even arguing for the hypothetical opposite view. Thus avoiding the possible pressure from their fellow jurors. As one poster noted it may very well have been the foreman. In such a high profile case you would likely be found out and attached in the press. Who needs that for reluctantly doing a civic duty? On the other hand an extroverted ass like me would wallow in it.

AlaskaJack said...

Margular may know about a great many things (or at least he thinks he does). But one thing he does not know about is moral philosophy.

No Margular, Jefferson did not get the ideas he expressed in my quotation from the Declaration of Independence from the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Koran or from the writings of any eastern religion. He got them from Sidney's Discourses Concerning Government. Sidney stands in a long line of natural law philosophers going back as far as Cicero and Epictetus.

As for an ethical system developed by a "God is Dead" philosopher, study Nietzsche. I don't think you'll like what you'll find.

Marghlar said...

AlaskaJack, you're an ass.

No Margular, Jefferson did not get the ideas he expressed in my quotation from the Declaration of Independence from the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Koran or from the writings of any eastern religion. He got them from Sidney's Discourses Concerning Government. Sidney stands in a long line of natural law philosophers going back as far as Cicero and Epictetus.

The relevance is? You wrote that a refusal to agree that our rights flow from a creator is incompatible with an ability to have a developed sense of ethics. The fact that some ethics flow from theistic assumptions, or from natural law assumptions, doesn't mean that all ethics have to.

You throw out Nietchze like some weird trump card, but the fact is that there are a wide variety of both consequentialist and deontological ethicists who do not posit a deity as an essential element of their schema.

Kant's ethics can stand without reference to a deity.

So can utilitarian ethics -- Bentham, Mills, etc.

Rawls's work does not require the assumption of a deity.

Shall I continue?

There is nothing inherent in theism that makes Jefferson's proposition "self-evident." God could easily have created human beings as non-equals, or failed to endow them with "rights", whatever those are in the abstract. Ergo, the notion that we are endowed with such things by God is either an assumption or an inference. Atheists can assume things or infer them, too. The sources will be different, but the method of argument the same.

I reject your basic assumption that one most believe in deontological notions of natural law in order to be a good public servant.