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How can this hair not be guilty? Add to ...

It has been almost five years since the lovely Lana Clarkson made her first and last visit to Phil Spector's Alhambra mansion and, to date, no one has avenged this angel.

After more than 40 hours of deliberation, the Spector trial jurors hit the wall last week, and Judge Larry Fidler was forced to declare a mistrial.

More than 40 hours. I am trying to imagine deliberating with, say, 11 apes about the same case and feel that after enjoying the free bushel of bananas, we would have needed 10 minutes. I can hear these apes screaming "guilty" in their coarse, yet stirring way, and I wonder what is wrong, not with a legal system that favours wealthy defendants, but with so many foolish juries.

Considering the Spector trial - considering alone the sight of the man, which makes any sentient person want to incarcerate him for his crimes against taste and coiffure - one is reminded, invariably, of the O.J. Simpson jury.

That is, the 12 champion cretins who deliberated for a mere three hours in order to reduplicate Johnnie Cochrane's signally asinine equation between gloves that fit and "you must acquit."

Never mind that the wrinkled little blood-soaked glove had clearly shrunk, or, more critically, the preponderance of hard scientific evidence against Simpson: This jury, basking in the world's attention and the benevolence of an unconscionably insipid judge, decided to disregard such trifles as proof and do what they pleased.

While the amazing dullards who judge the trials of the rich and famous are, clearly, more visible to us, it is frightening to think of all the average people who must play to a jury of their peers, to the very same constituents who decided Robert Blake was guilty only of enjoying a good bowl of pasta.

One of the Spector jurors, Ricardo Enriquez, said in a TV interview: "I didn't know who this man was and it didn't play any part."

This comment is absurd. Although I like to think fewer people each year remember Spector's reign of terror over music production, how could Enriquez have failed to notice something amiss in the defendant's Hollywood-noir appearance, phalanx of lawyers and actual references to who Spector is in the course of the trial?

Did Enriquez think that Spector could be any man - any man resembling Mr. Sardonicus in a Dolly Parton wig?

No, he did not, but his defensiveness speaks to the peculiar and, in a way, understandable nature of certain jurors' temperaments. What is remarkable about the most notable celebrity trials over the past decade or so is that their jurors pugnaciously refuse to yield to public opinion.

There is so much talk at large about stars getting off, or stars receiving wrist slaps, and the blame is always levelled at the stars' ability to procure gifted lawyers; at their elevated stature among simple civilians.

One would think that this sort of affront to the average working person would ignite juries composed, generally, of plain, homely people. (Consider the absurdity of locating a jury of Spector's peers. One would have to conduct the voir dire in an insane asylum: "Do you believe that guns are toys the Devil gives to his friends?" and so on.)

Yet the appraisers of the credibility of, say, Michael Jackson (and other lambent millionaires) tend to dig in their heels and side with the very person they are being, implicitly, urged to condemn. Why?

I think that the film Twelve Angry Men (and its remake featuring a sombre Tony Danza) has become such an ingrained trope that all jurors wish to be the one who flies in the face of what appears to be true, who conscientiously and with deepest empathy finds innocence in the plaintive face of the accused.

That's one theory. Another is that jurors are 12 strangers in a crowded room who develop instant antagonism toward each other and their very confines. Avoiding jury duty is an American pastime, best illustrated by Larry David in an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, in which, in order to be excused, he fallaciously indicated during the selection process that he would have "a problem" with the "Negro" defendant.

In The Journalist and The Murderer, Janet Malcolm interviews a female juror who has served on two juries, both resulting in mistrials. Of one trial, the woman remarks of her fellow jurors: "They were childish and silly and ignorant. It's not nice to be around people like that. I went into the hall a few times to get away from them, from their nasty dispositions and nasty attitudes. ... They were mean. They didn't care if they were going to ruin [the defendant's]life."

Malcolm calls this woman an "emblematic figure in the perils of the jury system," and one of its chief perils would seem to be the genuine problems attendant on locking 12 strangers in a room together and assuming they will play nice. Because this so rarely happens in meetings among actual colleagues, why would we assume that random associates would find among themselves the sense of parity required to deliberate formally and well?

As the Spector jurors have said, they were not able to envision what happened that night in February, 2003: As law professor Laurie Levenson has remarked, "It's never going to be like watching the crime happen on TV."

Have made-for-TV films about crimes become the gold standard? As in, if I haven't seen an actress portraying Lana Clarkson on my TV screen some Monday night "kissing the gun," I must acquit.

How dreadful it all is. The pig circus, the clown-haired defendant who either killed Lana Clarkson, or made her want to kill herself - this can't be happening, she must have thought.

Long absent from film and television, Clarkson would have been dead wrong. Pity and mercy, it seems, are extended only to the living, to the living who live so well.

 

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