Student jurors set ‘murder’ auspect free

Published 8:45 am Thursday, March 10, 2016

CHAPEL HILL — Thanks to a bunch of college student softies, a murder suspect walked free on Saturday. Argue as I might, the other jurors insisted on letting him go.

“I have reasonable doubt,” one of the young men said.

Oh, brother. Mr. Liberal.

“Throw open the doors of the prisons,” I suggested.

For several hours Saturday, Elizabeth, Michael and I posed as jurors for a mock trial conducted by students at the UNC School of Law. I could have been at home mulching, mowing and weeding the lawn, but the duties of a parent never end. Our Robert would not pass his class on criminal trials unless he brought two jurors with him. He delivered three for good measure, one he loaned to his co-counsel.

Maybe I really am a helicopter parent.

We didn’t get to sit for Robert’s trial. We had to watch four other student lawyers in action.

Several observations: Jurors can get distracted by the most obscure parts of the evidence and sympathize with the defendant even when told not to by the judge. By reputation, Davie County juries are quick to find murder defendants guilty. They don’t want murderers walking free lest they kill some of them next time. If I’m ever on trial for murder, I’d like to order a jury of Chapel Hill students. They would let Satan go free for lack of evidence.

The facts: An armed robber grabs $2,000 out of a store cash drawer. The store owner shoots, accidentally hitting his wife when the robber ducks. A get-away car outside peels away. Meanwhile, the store owner holds his pistol on the robber until police arrive. As she dies, the wife says it was the suspicious car she had noticed earlier.

The robber says the getaway driver was an old acquaintance from prison who lived only a few blocks away. The heist was the other guy’s idea. The robber’s pistol was registered to the other ex-con’s wife.

Not enough evidence to convict?

The professor-judge said the evidence was calculatedly fuzzy so that either guilty or not guilty verdicts could be reached depending on how well the student prosecutors and defense attorneys performed.

I’m sure my fellow jurors are telling their friends about the crazy geezer on their mock jury who would throw any suspect in prison and toss away the key.

• • • • •

More on the portly President William Howard Taft who we recently noted got stuck in the White House bathtub. At his inauguration on May 4, 1909, a sudden change in the weather dumped 10 inches of snow on Washington, D.C. The chief of the Weather Bureau personally called Taft the night before the inauguration to say the weather for the swearing-in ceremony would be nice.

According to the Washington Post’s recent article on the day, 6,000 men with shovels tried to clear the parade route along Pennsylvania Avenue for the traditional parade.

Taft moved the ceremony indoors to the Capitol’s Senate chamber, joking, “I always knew it would be a cold day in hell when I became President.”

If the bathtub incident did indeed happen, it is thought to have been on his first day in office.

• • • • •

Black skid marks at the new roundabout in Bermuda Run are ominous. Several times, based on the heavy tire marks, at least three motorists have slid into the circle unaware of the new traffic pattern. Bermuda Run wants to plant a 10-foot obelisk in the middle of the circle. We can hope drivers learn to negotiate the circle before it arrives.

• • • • •

One of my examples for good sense and civic duty is Sarah Wood of Mocksville. If we ever disagree, I know that I’m wrong. She called the other day to promote North Carolina’s $2 billion bond referendum that is on the ballot next week.  If she’s for it, I should be too. But there’s another reason to argue that it’s needed. If tight wad Gov. Pat McCrory says we need $2 billion to repair and expand the state’s infrastructure of  highways and colleges, parks and water and sewer, North Carolina must really need it.

— Dwight Sparks