Bench Memos

re: Yates

Kathryn’s correspondent expresses disappointment in the Andrea Yates jury “as a lawyer.”  I’m not a lawyer (nor do I play one on TV), and I’m disappointed too.  But somehow I’m reminded of what a French friend once told me, that in France the presiding judge in a criminal trial joins and guides the deliberations of the jury, making sure they understand and follow the law.  (At least that’s what he described from his youth decades ago, before he came here as an immigrant.  Whether the French still do this, I don’t know.)


Would any of our friends on the left who so admire the importation of foreign legal principles like to bring this one in?  For my part, I’d be okay with it if it were enacted by a state legislature.  Notably, there is nothing in the text of the U.S. Constitution to prevent any state from adopting such a procedure.  A cloud of stuff and nonsense could be thrown up from various judicial precedents, I’m sure.  But precedents are not the Constitution, only the sign of what previous judges thought was the Constitution.