Is Race an Issue?

Let me bring up the obvious — even if no one wants to talk about it. Walking into the Michael Jackson (search) courtroom this topic hits you like a ton of bricks, but it is uncomfortable to discuss. I did and now some viewers — a very few — are upset with me. I am not trying to "stoke the fire," but in some ways ask, "What were they [judge, defense attorneys and prosecutors] thinking?" Read on…

Two nights ago (and on at least one other show), I raised the question of the all white jury in the Jackson trial. I have no idea what they will decide — and I respect them and know that their job is not an easy one but an important one. I also believe they are doing their best. I raised the issue because I believe it an important one — not one to ignore or pretend does not exist. I am told that this jury is a constitutional one, based on the demographics in this community. When it is constitutional, it means we have met our minimum standards. This is good and important.

My concern is whether it is our best and why not try for better? Take a ride into the future with me... if the verdict is not guilty, the discussion about this jury composition is over. If the verdict is guilty, we will confront the perception of many that it was race based. I did not say it was race based but that it will be a perception held by many and an understandable one. It undermines confidence of many in an important institution — our judiciary. Many already think courts are grossly unfair and they are not perfect. Why do we want to risk more criticism — legitimate or not? It would have been more prudent, in my view, to simply make sure that African Americans were represented in this jury (note there is one alternate but not a regular juror expected to make a decision.) I fault the judge, the prosecutor and the defense attorney for this. There were solutions.

Think of what we are doing to those who are on that panel right now by not ensuring a diverse panel. If they vote guilty because they fairly conclude the case proven beyond a reasonable doubt, they will individually endure a particular criticism — something we could have spared them by simply making sure the panel were diverse. If you don't believe me, think back to the O.J. Simpson (search) criminal trial. While that panel was not completely African American (there was one white juror), everyone's selective memory is that it was all African American. And what did we hear from many? That the verdict was racist — that the jury voted not guilty because they were African American and so is Simpson. You rarely heard then or now that maybe the Simpson prosecutors were amateur in their presentation of their case.

Incidentally, in having this discussion with someone yesterday the person said there are two Hispanics on the panel. For the record, a Hispanic is not an African American.

Yes, I know that Michael Jackson has lived in a white community — but that is not my point.

On a lighter side, each night we invite a few local people to come watch the show. We meet people on the street or they wander past and we summon them to the show. At the end of the show, we ask them if they want to stand in the camera shot with some of our crew. They wave to all their friends. It is fun for them and fun for us. Last night some local people brought me a basket with local goods — including wine! Today I got a bag of home grown walnuts. The people of Santa Maria have been very generous.

Now for some e-mails:

E-mail No. 1

I wanted you to know that President Clinton (search) earned a lot of my respect last night. I am a supporter of President Bush, yet I have been disturbed in the past years over the political bashing that has gone on and seems to be getting worse. How can we be a witness to all the suppressed countries screaming for democracy when the Democrats and Republicans have become no better than the Sunni and Shiite? Although, they have not murdered each other, they have definitely crossed a line in their verbal attacks that do not teach other countries to work out their differences in a peaceful and professional manner that gets results through negotiating.
Thank you,
Roxane Durtschi
Salt Lake City, UT

E-mail No. 2

Please Greta, do not go over board with the Clintons. They are like snakes in the grass. You never know when they might rear their ugly head and bite you right in the ass.
Ms. Darla Jean Fietsch
Temecula, CA

E-mail No. 3

This pertains to Greta Van Susteren and her constant insistence about the jury in the Michael Jackson case. She keeps bringing up the "No blacks on the jury." What is it with her? Haven't we got enough racial problems without her, at every opportunity bringing up the fact that there are no blacks on the jury? I haven't heard any of the blacks bringing it up. Even the bleeding heart Jessie Jackson hasn't gone there. Besides, isn't the whole racial issue that blacks want to be treated "equally?" Now all of sudden Greta is appalled that there are no blacks on the jury. This is a perfect example of color having nothing to do with the issue at hand.
I have been a big fan of Greta's, but pel-leeaze get her off her soap box already!

And finally, one other thing you will notice in today's photo essay is that two people — Jim Hammer and producer Joel Kaufman — have spilled on their clothes. The pictures show the stains/cleaning of their clothes. Last week I ruined a pair of pants with a Sharpie pen. Today, I spilled coffee all over myself as we were driving from the hotel to the courthouse. We had to stop to get paper towels en route... I am beginning to wonder if there is something wrong with us that we are such a mess...

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