Tuesday, 21 June 2005

More on the Killen manslaughter verdict

Scipio further explains his view that the Killen manslaughter verdict indicates a weakness in the state’s case—and gives evidence from the Evers case that suggests the decision to seek the manslaughter instruction might reinforce the “political” nature of Killen’s prosecution:

Because of the peculiarity of Mississippi’s murder law, a defendant who is on the evidence guilty of murder can be convicted only of manslaughter without error attaching. But this is a decision the jury should be allowed to make, without the State telegraphing AS IT DID WITH ITS MOTION. When, immediately before trial, the State asks for a special instruction on manslaughter when murder is the real crime, it indicates a severe weakness in the case, and also that the indictment is deeply flawed.

Klansman Killen Konvicted

Contrary to my pessimism earlier today, the jury in Neshoba County today convicted Killen of three counts of manslaughter, a lesser charge than murder but one that, given the sentencing range, still will probably see Killen spending the rest of his life behind bars.

Update: Scipio wonders why the state asked for the manslaughter instruction in the case:

Additionally, what went wrong with the state's case? Why did they suddenly seek that manslaughter instruction?

Considering that the state's case was based primarily on old evidence from the civil rights trial of Killen and testimony from relatives of the deceased, and there were no surprises at trial, one has to wonder: why did the state indict for the top offense then chicken out? One obvious reason is to guarantee a conviction of some kind. But isn't securing a manslaughter conviction in place of a murder conviction a masterly coup on the part of the defense counsel, and a big downer for the state?

On the other hand, since it’s unlikely that Killen is going to ever be a free man again, I’m not all that sure it’s much of a coup for the defense.

Elsewhere: Steven Taylor has another story link on the case; the AP’s article is here. Finally, I’ve entered this into today’s OTB Traffic Jam.

NCAA Football 2006

Is it July 12th yet? No, but in the meantime look at the pretty pictures and preorder the game. NCAA easily gets the most play out of the (small) collection of Xbox games I have, so '06 will definitely be in my grubby little hands as soon as it comes out.

þ: Orson @ EDSBS.

Justice and show trials

James Joyner comments thusly on the jury deadlock in the Killen trial:

One of the many problems with digging up decades-old cases for re-prosecution in order to salve old wounds is that only one outcome is “acceptable.” Our criminal justice system is supposed to be geared to put the burden on the prosecution. In these cases, though, the guilt of the man on trial is assumed and the jury is expected to play their role in the grand show by convicting him. If they do, all is as expected. If they don’t, then it just goes to show that they’re a bunch of racists and society has not changed.

I believe Killen is guilty as sin—heck, the original trial in 1967 wouldn’t have come out 11–1 if he weren’t—but I really don’t know how you can prove that in a court of law with virtually no physical evidence, relying on less-than-credible witnesses and 42-year-old memories, and that’s the fundamental problem the prosecution is facing in this case..

I tend to think that “truth and reconciliation commissions” are a bit of a joke, but there’s something to be said for them in preference to having trials where the downside—the acquital of a pretty-obviously guilty man—is much bigger than the upside of the trial confirming the obvious. The success of the Beckwith “Ghosts of Mississippi” prosecution I fear may have distorted perceptions of this equation by state authorities.

Meanwhile, at least one witness at the trial was sounding a lot like Robert Byrd:

[A well-wisher]’s affections for the KKK were echoed Monday by defense witness Harlan Parks Major, who left office eight years ago after serving two four-year terms as Philadelphia mayor. “They do a lot of good for people,” Major said of the KKK, drawing indignant chuckles from some in the audience.

Nothing like a Song of the South-style whitewash of the Klan to brighten up one’s day.

Pod people

According to CNet, Duke has released the results of its evaluation of its iPod giveaway to last year’s freshman class. It was a qualified success:

Humanities students, particularly those studying music and foreign languages, made the most use of the devices, though the whole first year of engineering students had to use the device in a project for their computational methods class, the report said.

Among the classes that took part in the experiment were those for Spanish, in which students were evaluated on iPod recordings of themselves speaking the language. Electrical and computing engineering students, meanwhile, used the devices to record pulse rates.

“The iPod increased the frequency and depth of student interaction with audio course content through portable and flexible access offered by the iPod,” the report said.

You can read the full report here in all its nitty-gritty detail. I have to say I’m not sure what I’d do with one as a professor—beyond loading it up with music to listen to on the East-West Bus on the way to and from work, that is—at least until someone ports Stata (or R) to the iPod.

þ: Infinite Loop.