When juries nullify and comedians comment

We sought something to entertain my enlarged family; Tim suggested Norm McDonald’s last  monologue, “Nothing Special,” done the night before surgery.  Then, a group of comedians reminisced with stories of his eccentricity and gentleness from their days in standup and casino venues.

We watched SNL in its first years, when my daughters were infants; their generation had been, I think, more McDonald fans (we stopped watching as years went by.)  I had only heard after his death of the O.J. jokes that got him fired.  But my son-in-law remembered the shock, before the “woke” and “me too”  shame environment, when funny lines weren’t enough against political favorites.  Humor juxtaposes what we claim and what we do sometimes, it is often about the elephant in the room, the emperor’s illusory clothes.  The humor of SNL, is of skits and stand-ups, often topical; its “bite” may be sharp but we laugh because it is, in some sense, true.

Did the Sussman trial have its jokes?  It has no gore, no glamour, but a joke or two is helpful in sustaining truth and our sanity. It is a release valve so a society doesn’t blow up, it can pull a crazy back to reality, give a moment of wry self awareness much more easily accompanied by a laugh than a tirade.

The jurors felt the case shouldn’t have seen a courtroom, lying to the FBI is not, after all, a big deal.  (Not surprising in terms of how the FBI has conducted itself of late nor considering how seldom we do face and tell truths, but given the number of people who have been locked up for that act, it seems a bit brazen for a jury to take that stance.) I’d like some jokes about the obvious context, the blurted out mention of Hillary’s blessing on the whole sleazy project.  Jokes rest in our minds, they remind us.

13 thoughts on “When juries nullify and comedians comment”

  1. That wasn’t jury nullification, it was who-whom. Guarantee all these cretins think Scooter Libby, Michael Flynb, etc., should be rotting behind bars. Heck, I bet any of them would vote to convict Trump himself for anything at all.

  2. A while ago I started watched all the episodes of SNL from the first season one after another. Saw the early ones when they were in syndication in the 1980’s but later episodes I had mostly missed. Over the seasons there were the inevitable ups and down. Lots of great episodes. Lots of not so great episode. Some real train-wrecks. But kept watching season after season because there was always some gems in there.

    Then I hit the 1997 season and I just gave up. It was not just terrible but there was something kinda off about the whole vibe of the show. Something fundamentally changed. Did some digging around. There was a new director in 1996 but that series still had something there. Then it turned out that 1997 was the year that Tina Fey first turned up in the writers room. Bingo. That was the year SNL stopped being funny. For good.

    As for the Norm McDonald OJ joke. One of the senior NBC execs was a golfing buddy of OJ. By all accounts the exec was some sports TV jock who knew and cared little about comedy. A typical big corp politics promotion. After Norm was canned by the exec the exec moved on and had a subsequent career up to the usual standards of corp exec mediocrity.

    Norm was a great guy. He made all the right people uncomfortable. Because they knew the joke was on them but were too stupid to work out why.

  3. You have to be lucky to get a jury of your peers. Racial fairness in jury selection is most likely to be enforced for black defendants, which is probably a good thing. However, non-black defendants typically do not receive similar consideration. Defendants in white-collar cases may get jurors who lack basic understanding of the facts or are openly prejudiced against wealthy people (e.g., Conrad Black). Members of Republican administrations probably can’t get a fair trial in the District of Columbia, where it’s difficult to get convictions against members of Democratic administrations. Like doctrines of sovereign immunity and eminent domain, US jury selection rules have evolved in ways that may work against basic fairness and do not necessarily benefit the public.

  4. I forget which legal wag it was who defined Voir Dire as “The process by which courts prevent justice.”

    No DC politician should even be tried in the immediate DC area, you’re probably getting someone with a vested interest in certain aspects of the political process.

    Voir Dire should be constrained to basic relevant questions:

    “Do you have a vested interest in the outcome of this trial?”

    “Do you have an opinion of what the results of this trial should be?”

    “Do you know the defendant or the plaintiff, personally, in any manner, including business/finance/employment, friendship, membership in any small (less than 20) group or organization, or other clearly biased relationship?”

    Bang, end of questions. :-/

    I’m open to tweaks, but it should be along those ends.

    Perhaps: “Are you a government employee?” When either the plaintiff or defendant is one.

  5. “Do you know the defendant or the plaintiff, personally, in any manner, including business/finance/employment, friendship, membership in any small (less than 20) group or organization, or other clearly biased relationship?”
    Still amazed that after the trial itself started one of the jurors said, oh by the way, my daughter is on the rowing team with the defendant’s daughter, and the judge was like, ok cool you can still serve, no problem…

  6. You can get away with things like the Sussman acquittal only for so long, and then only if you manage to maintain dominance of the capitol regions over the rest of the nation. Sussman was a prototypical “show trial” in Moscow, results pre-determined.

    Where this is going to break down is if the rest of us decide that isn’t good enough. The “elites” that think they run everything in this country and world fail to grasp the salient fact that they do so only at the sufferance of the general population. When they’ve finally finished beclowning themselves and discrediting their self-declared “expertise”, what control they have over things will evaporate.

    Ace has an excellent and telling piece up, here:


    Just like with the NRA, the asshole “experts” think that the left-wing media failures stem from some nefarious plot, like their own astroturf organizations. The reality that it’s the preferences of the general public that are reflected in these things, and that their monopoly outlets are being routed around? They’re utterly blind to that reality, and it’s going to bite them in the end as their credibility evaporates like sweat dripped on hot pavement in the desert sun.

    The worm is going to turn, and the more they do with this BS trying to shore things up, the faster and harder it is coming. I hear things from people I’d have never expected to be saying the things they are, and I suspect that a lot of the idiots serving as representatives in our supposed representative republic are going to be in for a bit of a shock, should they dare venture into the hinterlands of their districts. Torches, ropes, and pitchforks probably ain’t out of the question. They take the economy down as hard and fast as I think they are, with the accompanying food shortages? LOL… The noose and a lamp post are probably best-case scenarios, for a lot of them.

    They’ve set the example, with BLM and the Floyd riots. Don’t be real surprised when and if there are others who take up the same activities. Also, don’t be awfully surprised when the counter-actions come, and those rioters wind up plastered over the windshield of history like so many bugs. There’s an awful lot of patience in the average people of this nation, but there is also a tipping-point past which that patience ends.

  7. they created a fiction, like the zinoviev letter, that made the british think the communist labor unions were going to rebel, hence the macdonald govt collapsed, thanks to sidney reilly, in part to punish them for allowing savinkov to be captured, I thought it was the most thread bare element, in part because sberbank, is the biggest laundry for russian money, the chief whistleblower against, miss lokhova, they falsely accused of being a Russian spy, but like harry reid said ‘it worked didn’t it’ general flynn was forced to plead to a lie, by a corrupt judge, who is busy cancelling oil leases retroactively, so only this trash became intelligence product

  8. Brian and Death6 are right, And of course that’s a distinction I didn’t make. I think – it is a conservative, right wing, whatever tendency to value disinterestedness, honesty, objectivity. Look at the different approaches of the right wing and the left wing judges. And the judge in this question either assumed this was the best they’d get in a DC jury or was hopelessly “interested” himself (herself?). Surely most judges would have struck some of those jurors.

    Treason is a hangable offense – but Trump is accused of it when he notes the 2020 election had some wild irregularities, while Hillary Clinton and Stacy Abrams (both quite publically, though in Clinton’s case also quite subversively) claimed the early elections were slanted with few if any of the proofs that, for instance, 20,000 mules has produced. (And back to the topic: Abrams has been a treasure the Babylon Bee mined well – I especially liked their story that Kemp was now turning to try to defeat the incumbent, Abrams, in the 2024 election. It would seem to me hard to read much of the Bee and be able to vote for Abrams except as a cynical romantics – disdainful of order itself. some kind of ironic or cynical send up to our Constitution and elections in general. And this is not the time to give up, or give in to cynicism.

    I think part of what changes as we age is we move from valuing passions to valuing disinterested objectivity. I love the way Sowell in interviews just leans back and laughs at the human comedy. But probably in his youth (probably beyond even those first more socialist economic ones), he was passionate – he still is in a measured and witty way.

    The overly romantic pendulum may have reached its extreme in the tossing out of order of the Soros d.a.’s, in the drug markets in city parks and bold thefts. My quite youthful grandsons seem excited by logic and math, are curious about philosophy and history (indeed the younger one commented on the emptiness of his “social studies” class versus the history he was beginning to enjoy.

    Besides much farther the entire nation will be a madhouse. The romanticization of insanity has always been destructive and essentially unsympathetic. We saw King of Hearts for the first time lately and neither of us really enjoyed it – though we remember forty years or more ago it was well-regarded (5 stars). It was of the time – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Catch 22, Zorba the Greek. .Disorder doesn’t seem liberating any more. Breaking down traditions and customs seems a lot less attractive today than it did then (and then I wasn’t insane enough not to have my doubts). Mondrian may be an extreme order, but in the world of those movies and my own frenzied life, I chose his prints most often around me. Oh, well. Pardon my self-indulgent reminiscences.

  9. “And the judge in this question either assumed this was the best they’d get in a DC jury or was hopelessly “interested” himself”
    The judge’s wife is Lisa Page’s defense lawyer.

  10. Again – even the pretense of objectivity is lost. Are these people without minimal self-consciousness?

  11. Oh, Brian, thanks for that – I’d forgotten. Now there’s the illegitimate census.
    The Democrats really do think like 3rd Worlders while considering themselves “modern,” barbarous when they consider themselves morally superior, narrow when they consider themselves broadminded.
    “Eyes and ears are poor witnesses when the soul is barbarous” (on NE Supreme Court wall, Heraclitus).

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