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A Jury Judges A Former President

For the first time in our history, a 12-person jury of one’s peers unanimously found a former President guilty of a felony after applying the highest level of proof in our judicial system… “guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

There are really two stories here — that of our judicial system and that of Donald Trump.

Trump’s story has been quite consistent — he has never done anything wrong, all of the court cases he is now a defendant in are “witch-hunts” perpetrated by Democrats, he is a victim of political intrigue against him, etc., etc.

What he doesn’t say is that all of the civil actions, indictments, and now a felony conviction are related, primarily, to one common thing — his own behavior.

I can think of no other politician in our history, President or former President, who has brought so much litigation upon himself.

These charges and convictions have all come from things that he did or tried to cover-up. Some are civil matters where large money damages were awarded to a woman he assaulted. Other actions deal with criminal charges associated with the way then President Trump treated classified documents, fired up a crowd to attack the Capitol, or in making phone calls to Georgia officials to try to change election results.

In all cases, the cause of his problems has been his own behavior. It wasn’t something foisted upon him, yet, he calls himself the “victim.”

The jury story coming out of last week’s conviction is, for me, a compelling one.

De Tocqueville, when he visited our country in the 1830s, was taken by the fact that in most frontier towns, the first public building constructed was a courthouse. One of the first things that Americans did in moving West, was to put up a building where citizens could litigate their differences and where the rule of law could be applied.

As to the criminal law, it is framed to favor the defendant whose freedom is at stake. In a criminal trial, the burden is upon the government to make its case, a unanimous decision is required for conviction, and the rules of evidence generally favor the defendant.

I remember also, when in law school, studying the manner in which the jury system was developed under British common law. A juror was described as a “man on the Clapham bus,” that is, an ordinary or reasonable person, not a person of power or prestige. It is such common people picked from a random pool of potential jurors who make up a jury. Serving as a juror, to those so chosen, is a civic obligation, and they take it seriously.

Twelve people from the “Clapham bus,” from various occupations, ethnic backgrounds, consisting of 7 men and 5 women found unanimously, beyond a “reasonable doubt,” that Donald Trump was guilty. After listening to 5 weeks of testimony, the verdict was returned within two days on all 34 counts.

That is good enough for me. The jury listened, evaluated and decided. That is the American way. Of course, how it plays out in the election is still an unknown.

Nevertheless, it was good to see that the rule of law applies to everyone in this country, including Presidents. However, it is sad that the country has to go through all of this. It is not an uplifting time in our history.

Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.

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