Judge Wu Cuts Both Ways

|

As reason.tv intern Seth Goldin points out, Judge George Wu, who has decided to not let prosecutors inform the jury about Megan Meier's suicide, is the same judge who ruled that Owen Beck (a teenaged amputee with a medical marijuana prescription) couldn't testify in defense of Charlie Lynch, the now-convicted owner of a medical marijuana dispensary. Read Goldin's account of Wu's response to Beck here.

Any thoughts, commenters, on this bizarre paradox?

NEXT: Barr/Root: A Point-Counterpoint

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Legally, that’s perfectly consistent. He didn’t allow emotional appeals that had no bearing on whether or not the alleged crime was committed. The fact that it helped one bad prosecution and hindered another bad prosecution doesn’t enter into the legal reasoning, it’s only noteworthy for us from an admittedly biased, outside perspective.

  2. Stupid blind justice!

  3. SWAT team slaughters kidnapped orphans…Oops, sorry, wrong thread.

  4. He wants the jury to focus on whether the crime was committed, not on whether the crime had particularly horrible consequences (in the Lori Drew case) or whether there were particularly good reasons for disregarding the law (in the Charlie Lynch case). Frankly, from a legal point of view, this is probably the right way to go.

  5. I certainly am no legal scholar, but it seems consistent to me.

  6. There’s absolutely no paradox here.

  7. As others have said, it’s consistent. IANAL, but I’d guess it’s not far out of the mainstream of legal thinking.

  8. What paradox, he’s consistent in his opposition to confusing juries with the facts.

    The difference here is in one case the facts mitigate the crime and are therefore relevant to the defense. In the other the facts aggravate the actions of actions of the defendant. Actions which are not criminal in spite of their consequences.

    Our legal common law tradition, recognizes a jury’s option to nullify bad law via acquittal. Defendants should always be allowed to present mitigating circumstances as part of their defense.
    But this legal tradition does not cut the other way. There is no role for juries to criminalize the actions of people they don’t like.

  9. Both of these rulings were decisions to keep the jury in the dark about the facts of the case. Sounds to me like Judge Wu wants the jury to depend entirely on the judge, rather than to make up their own minds.

    -jcr

  10. Warren-

    I agree wholeheartedly about how it *should* be. The idea of keeping jurors as ignorant, passive, and distant as possible completely undermines their intended purpose as a representative subset of the community, and arguably even undermines their role as an integral part of the justice system.

    However, how things should be and how they are are two very different things. As the rules exist now, Judge Wu made legally consistent and correct decisions.

  11. Well, yeah, it is about keeping them in the dark.

    The whole rules of evidence and major parts of the constitutional law are about keeping juries in the dark, because their job is to render unemotional verdicts based on evidence considered solid enough to justify sending someone to jail.

  12. @Warren: defendants can always offer evidence to support affirmative defenses. “I had a really good reason,” if it doesn’t rise to the level of a necessity defense, is not a valid affirmative defense to any crime.

    The judge in both instances excluded evidence irrelevant to whether all of the elements of the crime charged are present.

    Whether you like the law is irrelevant; the judge applied it correctly.

    @JCR: No, the judge wants the jury to make the decision based on evidence relevant to the elements of the charged crime, rather than appeals to emotion outside the elements. That is a fundamental notion of due process.

  13. Jury nullification cuts both ways, folks. Would you be singing the praises of nullification if a jury refused to convict a cop who shot someone during a wrong-door raid of murder, because they thought the law shouldn’t apply to him?

    What about all that jury nullification that happened down south whenever a KKK member was prosecuted for crimes against a black person? Do we have to praise that too?

    Let’s not be so quick to hitch the libertarian caboose to the jury nullification train.

  14. No, the judge wants the jury to make the decision based on evidence relevant to the elements of the charged crime, rather than appeals to emotion outside the elements. That is a fundamental notion of due process.

    Who could argue with that rather tendentious way to put it?

    A broader view of due process, of course, puts the judge in charge only of the procedural aspects of the case; running the courtroom, as it were, while the jury is in charge of all the substantive aspects of the case, rather than merely being asked to tick some boxes on a form at the end of the trial.

  15. Lefiti Cocksucker!

  16. No, the rulings were not consistent. I agree that the judge properly excluded the suicide evidence. However, he was wrong to exclude Mr. Beck’s testimony as the constitution itself does not permit the courts to exclude evidence that may have emotional appeal favoring a criminal defendant. If the framers had desired to give the courts such power, they would have done so.

    Furthermore, if we are truly concerned about affording every criminal defendant a fair trial, this is a no brainer. The burden is upon the government to establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the accused is guilty. THerefore, any evidence that the accused seeks to introduce should be examined with our core princiles in mind. If the testimony of Mr. Beck might (again its just speculation on the part of the prosecution and the judge) trigger sympathy for the doctor’s plight, TFB. THe process is not supposed to be “fair” to the crown. Again, there is no founding era support for the proposition that criminal trials must be conducted so as to not make it “unfair” to the crown.

    Next, nullification priniciples militate in favor of admitting any evidence that an accused seeks to introduce bearing on the unfairness or idiocy of the statute in question.

  17. Re: There’s absolutely no paradox here.

    Paradox: (n) Any person, thing, or situation exhibiting an apparently contradictory nature.

  18. I don’t see the paradox. Judges routinely exclude things from trials. Often that is done to skew the results a particular way. Sometimes we approve of that and sometimes we don’t.

    I’m of the opinion that the whole picture is better than a partial picture but not many people share that belief.

  19. Mike, yes it is a paradox to us. But the ways of the courts are such that a paradox isn’t a paradox because judges always do strange and largely inexplicable things that are then either vilified or justified by the rest of us.

  20. Mike Riggs, you’ve been living in Red vs. Blue America for too long. This is like the conservative commentators who couldn’t wrap their minds around the “paradox” of someone being against amnesty for illegal immigrants AND against the Iraq War.

  21. There’s only a paradox if you assume judges, or at least this judge, rules based on ideological rather than legal principles. Doesn’t look like he does.

  22. Legal babble aside, I’m still not clear why this woman who drove the girl to kill herself wasn’t charged with murder.

  23. rhywun, she didn’t kill the girl. That seems to be a pretty clear prerequisite for murder.

  24. And yes, I know that the whole concept of “felony murder” blurs the lines on that, but that just means felony murder is a nonsense.

  25. rhywun – Generally, suicide is considered an intervening cause that would break the chain of causality.

    You would have a much better case if Meier were say, seven years old. But she’s thirteen, which means she’s adult enough to make choices.

  26. You would have a much better case if Meier were say, seven years old. But she’s thirteen, which means she’s adult enough to make choices.

    Not in America she isn’t – 13 isn’t old enough to vote, drink, smoke, have sex, drive…she couldn’t even have made the choice to see an R-rated movie.

  27. But she’s thirteen, which means she’s adult enough to make choices.

    What JPB said.

    Plus, I don’t care what age she is–convincing a mentally unbalanced person to commit suicide must be some sort of crime. Manslaughter? IANAL, obviously. Just someone outraged that this woman is getting away with her crime.

  28. Plus, I don’t care what age she is–convincing a mentally unbalanced person to commit suicide must be some sort of crime. Manslaughter? IANAL, obviously. Just someone outraged that this woman is getting away with her crime.

    She didn’t convince her to commit suicide. She’s not that Applewhite dude. She was a bully. Big difference.

  29. She was a bully

    While that’s true, I don’t think the term “bully” is sufficient in this case. Lori Drew didn’t just harass her, Lori Drew pretended to be a boy her age, flirted with her, and then once the girl was emotionally invested she attacked her.

  30. 13 year olds are free to have sex. Adults are just not free to have sex with 13 year olds.

  31. Lori Drew pretended to be a boy her age, flirted with her, and then once the girl was emotionally invested she attacked her

    Being a cruel asshole is not a crime. If it were, a lot of us would be up on charges.

  32. Being a cruel asshole is not a crime.

    No, but what you do that makes you a cruel asshole can be crimes.

  33. Being a cruel asshole is not a crime. If it were, a lot of us would be up on charges.

    Perhaps, but people keep comparing this to the way adults treat other adults, and I think that misses the point.

    I’d be willing to bet that while most of us are guilty of being a cruel asshole from time to time, the vast majority of us aren’t being a cruel asshole to a child.

  34. Being a cruel asshole is not a crime.

    Maybe I watch too much Law & Order. Those guys would have her rotting away in prison by now.

  35. JPB, I’m dying to know how you propose to write a non-vague law that differentiates in general between criminal cruel assholery and non-criminal cruel assholery.

  36. From my point of view, the rulings are inconsistent. Drew is being tried for violating Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, not for Meier’s death, so her suicide isn’t relevant to the case.

    Lynch was convicted of selling marijuana. Beck wanted to testify about the circumstances around which Lynch sold the pot, which seems perfectly relevant to me.

  37. JPB, I’m dying to know how you propose to write a non-vague law that differentiates in general between criminal cruel assholery and non-criminal cruel assholery.

    The same way you write a law that differentiates between statutory rape and legal sex, the age of the victim.

  38. So you have to ask for ID before you tell a person to go fuck themselves on the Net? You realize that all the Urkobolds would be in jail if Edward were a minor, right?

  39. So you have to ask for ID before you tell a person to go fuck themselves on the Net?

    No, but if you knowingly defraud a minor for the purposes of causing emotional harm, I don’t have a problem calling it a crime.

  40. So it would be against the law to tell kids that Santa is going to put coal in their stockings. I have a feeling, JPB, that your law is going to die a death by a thousand qualifications. There are just too many things that are a normal part of adult-kid interactions that are going to run afoul of it.

  41. So it would be against the law to tell kids that Santa is going to put coal in their stockings

    Poor example, parents don’t tell kids that to try to hurt them.

    Perhaps I’m just more of an optimist than you are, but I don’t see it being the problem you suggest, and if the best you can come up with is Santa, I may just be right about that.

  42. Of course they’re trying to hurt them. That’s the whole point, just like spanking. Now, there’s an arguably benevolent purpose for the hurtful actions, but that doesn’t change the fact that emotional harm is inflicted.

  43. No, the judge did rule on ideological grounds in the med mj case. Only an idealogue would buy the intellectual dishonesty that undergirds the notion that in America, where the framers ordained that the state is not to stand on an equal footing with the accused, juries should not be able to hear any evidence that the accused seeks to introduce on the issue of nullification.

  44. Many judges are idealogues. Take immunity for example. If a cop breaks into the wrong house and kills both dog and man in a botched drug raid, the cop should face the music. THe framers did not authorize the judiciary to immunize the state employed tortfeasor from exposure to liability. If a judge grants a motion to dismiss filed by the town counsel or the state attorney general on the basis of either qualified or absolute immunity, then the judge is making an idealogical ruling. The judge would be choosing to follow the path laid down by previous ideological courts that chose to disregard the intent of the framers in order to impose their ideology. Making it more difficult to hold Caesar’s grubby, parasitic thugs accountable is an ideologically motivated decision.

  45. Now, there’s an arguably benevolent purpose for the hurtful actions

    And since intent is part of the crime, that’s all that matters.

  46. With many new announcement about the wizard of oz movies in the news, you might want to consider starting to obtain Wizard of Oz book series either as collectible or investment at RareOzBooks.com.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.