“Mob law does not become due process of law by securing the assent of a terrorized jury.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Baseball’s All-Star Game is upon us, and it always brings back great memories from my youth. Like in 1964 when I had my transistor radio taped to the handlebars of my bike, pedaling home as fast as I could to try and catch the final inning only to hear Johnny Callison’s game-winning homer just a block from our house on Houston’s southwest side.
The event was held at the Astrodome in 1968, the first time I saw my boyhood idol Carl Yastrzemski play. Yaz went 0-for-4 with a couple of strikeouts.
The midseason contest continued to hold a special place in my heart later in life, used to grill dogs and have buddies over to watch it well into my 40s, though it’s not such a big deal any longer. Sure, we’re still having hot dogs tonight and I’ll sit down to watch the game, the sound muted on the TV as with any other FOX Sports broadcast. But if tonight is anything like the past few years, I’ll nod off around the seventh inning.
Fans weren’t allowed to vote for the All-Stars in 1968, but if we had, you can bet your keister I’d have cast a ballot for Yastrzemski. He was having a fine enough season in ’68 coming off his Triple Crown campaign a year earlier. Still, he could’ve been batting .237 and I’d have voted for Yaz.
Stuffing The Verdict Box
Fans lost their right to vote on MLB All-Stars in 1957 when a bunch of Cincinnati Reds supporters stuffed the ballot box to elect seven of their own players. It wasn’t until 1970 when Major League Baseball decided fans would no longer stoop to such shenanigans.
Which brings me to how many people have been voting to overturn the jury verdict in the recent George Zimmerman trial. Why, judging from the response and media attention, it’s a wonder how Zimmerman’s defense team and the prosecutors were able to find six people that hadn’t already convicted him before the case got to trial.
To show how little I followed the case, I wasn’t aware until this morning that the jury wasn’t made up of 12 but instead six and none with a penis. Still can’t tell you much about the evidence against Zimmerman that led to the charge in the first place, can’t tell you what evidence was submitted at trial, don’t know what instructions were given to the jury, and certainly have no clue what was discussed in their deliberations that led to a not guilty verdict.
I can only guess that people like Nancy Grace and the rest of the studio hosts who covered the trial did present all of that information, with great objectivity, to the millions of people who are rejecting the verdict. I say this because lord knows a mob never goes off half-cocked and without all of the vital facts when considering a person’s guilt or innocence.
OJ Breaks A Tackle And Goes Into the End Zone With An Acquittal
Another trial that the masses stayed in touch with and I didn’t was the OJ Simpson murder circus a little less than 20 years ago. I was forced to watch the infamous chase scene on June 17, 1994 though I tried to focus on the split-screen portion showing the NBA playoff game between the Rockets and Knicks, but never really paid attention to the trial, sorta’ figured that was the job of the jury and judge.
On October 3, 1995, that jury also announced a not guilty verdict. It just so happened that I was in a Harris County courtroom having been called for jury duty that day. There were maybe 400 of us in the large room, the judge already numbering us off and reseating us to await being called to another courtroom for voir dire. About noon, a huge yell went up from behind the judge where a bunch of clerks were working, the kind of celebratory yell I might have heard at the 1968 All-Star Game when the Astros’ lone representative, Rusty Staub, was announced.
A few minutes later, a lady came out and informed us all that the jury in Los Angeles had just found OJ not guilty. There was a little old woman sitting in the bench behind me with her husband. How she and her husband were both there on the same day, and seated together for a potential jury, I’ll never know. It was something a few of us had wondered when their names were first called earlier that morning. But I’ll never forget what I heard her mumble to her spouse: “I can’t believe they let that nigger off.”
Maybe the Zimmerman jury was made up of six little old ladies like her. Maybe the jury simply decided the prosecution didn’t convince them beyond any doubt that Zimmerman was guilty. And maybe, just maybe, all of those Cincinnati fans in 1957 got it right and the Reds deserved to have seven players in the All-Star Game.
Jurists are never allowed to cast a vote for maybe, however. And lord help us if they ever can do that, or if judges are allowed to throw out a jury’s verdict and instead substitute what the majority think based on what the nightly news told them.
Author: A crotchety old man since his birth during Gen. Eisenhower’s first term as US president, Willie B. Lakey resides in the bee-yoo-tiful Texas Hill Country along with his wife, too many cats and his beloved beer fridge. Employed as an overworked and underpaid freelance sportswriter, his few moments of happiness usually come when communing with critters, tending his garden or sippin’ cold beer and enjoying tunes at Gruene Hall.