12 cretinous men (and women)

Just our luck that for the major political trial of the year (so far) we are bestowed with twelve auditionees for Tool Academy

Is there any 'reasonable' doubt?
Alex Wickham, UK Politics Editor
On 21 February 2013 09:39

You've listened to the testimony, you've had the law read to you and interpreted as it applies in this case. It's now your duty to sit down and try to separate the facts from the fancy. If there's a reasonable doubt in your minds as to the guilt of the accused, a reasonable doubt, then you must bring me a verdict of "Not Guilty". If, however, there's no reasonable doubt, then you must, in good conscience, find the accused "Guilty".

However you decide, your verdict must be unanimous. In the event that you find the accused "Guilty", the bench will not entertain a recommendation for mercy. You're faced with a grave responsibility. Thank you, gentlemen.

So the judge booms from the bench in the famous opening lines of 12 Angry Men. At Southwark Crown Court yesterday sat our very own answer to Sidney Lumet’s twelve men good and true. In our case Vicky Pryce’s fate was in the hands of just the four chaps, alongside eight chapesses.

Fourteen hours of deliberation had passed before an extraordinary event that Mr. Justice Sweeney – a man whose patience, endurance and wit is worthy of the highest commendation – admitted the like of which he had “never come across” before.

Unable to reach a verdict, the jury asked of the judge what, god-willing, will go down as the most stupid, most unbelievably intellectually-incontinent set of questions ever asked by anybody, anywhere, ever.

“Can a juror come to a verdict based on a reason that was not presented in court and has no facts or evidence to support it, either from the prosecution or defence?”

“No of course you bloody well can’t, you idiots,” Mr Justice Sweeney replied. He didn’t, but his tone of complete exasperation betrayed that sentiment. I met a bloke on the tube the other day, your honour, who told me he was pretty sure his mate overheard someone who looked a bit like Chris Huhne’s former bisexual lover admit that her boyfriend had forced his ex-wife to take his speeding points. They must have forgotten to mention that in the trial, m’lud, but shall I find her not guilty? Morons.

“Would religious conviction be a good enough reason for a wife feeling that she had no choice, i.e. she promised to obey her husband in her wedding vows and he had ordered her to do something and she felt she had to obey?”

Er, what? Never mind the fact that Vicky didn’t even mention any religious convictions as any part of her defence, at any point during the trial, why not base our decision on that? I’ve had a great idea: perhaps there was a wedding video, let’s go back and see if she promised to obey him! Because obviously once a woman promises to obey her husband in her wedding vows she is no longer responsible for any of her actions whatsoever. Yeah I killed him but, y’know, wedding vows.

“Can you define what is reasonable doubt?”

Oh FFS. “A reasonable doubt is a doubt which is reasonable. These are ordinary English words”. That’s not me being facetious, that is actually what Mr Justice Sweeney said in response. And they are possibly my favourite fourteen words ever uttered by a British judge.

For reasons only it can fathom, the Guardian is on the side of The Worst Jury In The History Of Mankind, and the New Statesman’s all-seeing, all-knowing, always-right-about-everything David Allen Green says they deserve some credit.

What nonsense. Just our luck that for the major political trial of the year (so far) we are bestowed with twelve auditionees for Tool Academy. These people have the vote for god’s sake.

If I ever find myself in the dock – and believe me it will be for a crime infinitely cooler and better planned than the Huhne-Pryce debacle – I cannot imagine anything worse than being tried by my peers. Give me a triumvirate of Eton-educated, seventy-something old bores any day of the week.

There comes a moment in 12 Angry Men when things boil over and juror three has to be restrained after threatening to kill Henry Fonda. Had I been sitting in that Southwark jury room with those cretins for fourteen hours yesterday, I fear murder may well have been done.

Alex Wickham is The Commentator's UK Political Editor and a reporter at the Guido Fawkes website. He is a contributor to their column in The Sun newspaper. He tweets at @WikiGuido

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