It’s becoming a recurring event in our judicial system. William Lynch is a 44-year-old man who was on trial for felony assault and abusing the elderly. He attacked his priest that had sexually abused him when he was a child. The penalty if convicted was up to four years in prison. However, even though the evidence showed that he was indeed guilty of the assault by the letter of the law, the jury refused to return a guilty verdict. They wouldn’t even convict Lynch on a lesser misdemeanor charge of assault with much less repercussions.
Lynch was understandably relieved. His defense lawyers mounted their arguments on the idea that Lynch wasn’t the one that should be on trial, but was a victim instead. The prosecution implored the jury that all that they were there to decide was whether William Lynch was guilty of assaulting the priest. Basically, it was the old idea of two wrongs don’t make a right. The jury wasn’t having it, and they decided that some situations in life justify assault. This echoes a similar situation last month when a man was found not guilty of murdering a man that he caught red-handed abusing his child. That case was similar in that if you look strictly at the law and throw all emotion out of it, the man was guilty. He did what they said he did. But juries are not seeing things that way.
The altercation with Lynch revolved around an attempt to get his priest to sign a confession that would have no doubt led to his arrest and conviction. The priest refused and Lynch, in a rage, hit him in the face. The priest did have to testify against Lynch at trial, but when defense lawyers pressed him on the abuse, he quickly used the Fifth Amendment to avoid incriminating himself on the stand. The judge ultimately decided that if he wasn’t going to answer all the questions, none of the testimony would be admitted. It was struck from the record and the jury was instructed to disregard it.
We at Common Sense Conspiracy believe that situations like this show the few things are still good about our justice system. The law is the law, but when it all comes down, a jury of your peers is the only thing that convict you of a crime, and while judges and lawyers must operate within the technical nature of the law, juries do not have to. Juries can consider the situation however they wish and return a verdict, even if it strays outside the black-and-white of the criminal codes. And in cases like that, we say amen. Unfortunately, juries rarely do this in the other direction. Letting Lynch walk away when he technically was guilty did not bother them. But in cases like Casey Anthony, where there was technically enough reasonable doubt to return a not guilty verdict, juries were not able to disregard it and convict her anyway. We could go on and on debating the right and wrong, and yet the overwhelming majority of America wishes that the jury had nailed her to the wall. But when you are sitting in that room debating a decision that will send someone to prison for life, or possibly even to the death sentence, it can be hard to do what Lynch’s jury did in the opposite direction.