Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Death of Reason

I admit to failing LAWS 101 twice which, to the best of my knowledge, still gives me more formal legal training than Attorney General Michael Cullen. Speaking from ignorance though I may be, I cannot fail to notice the unlamented death of reason. Knee-jerk polls in the MSM, along the lines of removing the right to silence or whether prior convictions should be provided to juries, cajole a skewed response.

Take, for example, the hoo-ha over the cop rape trials. Russel highlights the issue thusly: Should the jury have been told that Schollum and Shipton were previously convicted of rape?

Answer: No. Any trial must focus solely on the evidence of the case in hand, not the defendant's history. Why? Partly due to the presumption of innocence. Just because one has rolled three 6's in a row, it does not follow that the dice will roll a 6 the next time. The construct of law provides the benefit of the doubt, as Nandor more eloquently demonstrates in the thread of Russel's post. Making prior convictions admissible in trials would also open the floodgates on the temptation for police to frame certain suspects or manufacture evidence. I'd rather not provide for that temptation.

That said, I recommend jurors hang on every word when the judge gives them their brief. The court is the judge's domain, and they are damned sure to be fully informed on the defendant's history. Pay attention. Read between the lines.

So, where did this attack on reasonableness begin? The rot set in with the Smokefree Environments Act 1990. That precedent set the stage for all this... moronity. Safety, or at least the illusion of it, has supplanted reason. This is why the cigarettes will soon be stashed under the dairy counter, next to the Penthouses and full cream milk. We no longer accept reason, we demand perfection.