Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Some general thoughts on Libby

Some perspective in its own post, to separate it from the liveblogged initial post.

If Bush pardons Libby, it will be near the end of his administration to minimize the political fallout.

A commenter in the other thread suggested that Libby will become Bush's Marc Rich. Rich, you may recall, was the fugitive financier pardoned by Clinton in his final days.

It's not quite a spot-on comparison, because Libby is no Marc Rich. I'm more sympathetic to pardoning an otherwise straight arrow for an essentially political crime, than I am pardoning a fugitive felon simply because he was a campaign donor.

A more apt comparison is when Bush the Elder pardoned the Iran-Contra participants. And even then, Plamegate is no Iran-Contra.

In a general sense, though, there should be a law against issuing pardons to people connected to the president or his party. Pardons are supposed to be acts of mercy, not political favors for the well-connected.

Was the jury filled with rabid partisan Bush-haters, and the conviction a political hammer? Another commenter claimed that. And perhaps with some justification: the trial took place in Washington D.C., which is about 90 percent Democratic. So one would expect the jury to be mostly Democrats.

But that ignores several factors. The major one is the requirement for unanimity in a verdict, meaning that if there were just one Republican on the jury -- and odds are there was at least one -- they could foil a conviction.

Secondly, Libby's lawyers were involved in jury selection, and they were certainly aware of the political implications and chose accordingly.

So let's take a look at the jury. Here's an overview story, and here's a juror-by-juror profile.

Most D.C. residents are black, but 10 of the 12 jurors were white. Nine were women. This already tells you that the jury was not representative of the area. Most said they were largely apolitical -- which would make them similar to most Americans -- but of course they could have been lying about that.

Then lets go juror by juror:

Juror #1: 30s, female, Comptroller. Studied law in grad school and has a classified government clearance pending.

Juror #2: 30s, CPA. Hs two friends in the FBI.

Juror #3: 40s, Accounting administrator for a senior-services group.

Juror #4: 30s, Hotel convention booker.

Juror #5: Denis Collins. Notes that he has a friend who played over-40 football with Libby.

Juror #6: 50s, Web architect for federal contractor.

Juror #7: 50s, retired math teacher.

Juror #8: 40s, Economist. Israeli-born, PhD from MIT, works with overseas regulators in the telecom industry.

Juror #9: 50s, worked as a secretary for Reagan and Bush the Elder administrations. Two master's degrees, friends in the Park Police, Secret Service and CIA.

Juror #10: 60s, Lawyer for the FTC.

Juror #11: 70s, retired art curator. This was the juror who was dismissed.

Juror #12: 50s, retired postal worker.

Suspected political affiliations aside, that may be the most well-educated jury I've ever seen. And while one could apply some gross stereotypes and guess at political leanings for some of them (art curator and postal worker? Democrats!!), there are several that confound expectations -- like the FTC lawyer, and the woman who worked for Republican administrations.

So I think playing "blame the jury" -- either for being partisan or being stupid -- isn't going to work very well.

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Anonymous Marc Schneider said...

I think very few people are willing to send someone to jail simply because they don't like their politics. IN fact, they might bend over backwards to give the defendant a fair shake. They eliminated the people that expressed partisan sentiments that would make them unable to be fair. I really doubt that was an issue. I think what influences verdicts is more the dynamics of the jury and the various personalities than their ideological considerations, ie, a strong person might be able to sway weaker people, etc.

3/07/2007 1:46 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

They may not be willing to send them to jail for politics, but politics can influence how evidence is perceived. If you don't like the defendant you're less likely to give him the benefit of the doubt, and innocent actions can take on sinister significance.

That said, in a jury room you have to defend your view against 11 other jurors and compare it to a specific legal standard, which helps remove the influence of such unintended bias. The idea that Libby would be unanimously convicted by 11 random jurors purely out of political animus is far-fetched.

3/09/2007 8:28 PM  

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