With opening arguments due on Monday and a shroud of deadly earnest sure to descend, the days of jury selection (both of them) will be remembered as the trial’s silly season. The fourth estate characterized prospective jurors on a sliding scale that ranged from faintly lunatic to Cro-Magnon. The Wall Street Journal’s law blog came out with the spectacularly patronizing headline “Jurors Say the Darndest Things,” but Peter Worthington’s lead in this morning’s Sun was a beat on this score: “God bless—and help—their little intellects… Pity, also, the ‘take-no-prisoners’ prosecution, which will have to persuade to this jury of…how to put it gently?…people with very ordinary brain power, the intricacies of mail fraud, wire fraud, honest services fraud, evidence tampering…” And this from the founding editor of a paper of which Conrad once famously wrote, “…not that the Sun is a newspaper of record to anyone who does not suffer from severe lip strain after half a minute of silent reading…”
And along the same lines, the Globe‘s Ian Brown provided the very definition of damning with faint praise: “In a trial, especially a big trial with rich human themes and a lot at stake, nothing is as it appears to be. For all the apparent wackiness of many of the prospective jurors (‘What were you expecting in Chicago?’ a lawyer who has been studying the trial said on the first day of jury selection. ‘A roomful of Nobel Prize lawyers? You don’t even get that in Toronto.’), and in spite of the complete absence of artists and writers and the so-called independent thinkers that the defence reportedly wanted in the jury pool, Mr. Greenspan said, ‘We’re not unhappy with the panel.’”
Further along the spectrum toward the patently ridiculous, we find the Guardian‘s otherwise reliable Andrew Clark quoting Black’s bootlicking hagiographer George Tombs as though he were, well, somebody worth quoting. In an article marked by potted history and freshman psychologizing, Tombs, in an attempt to interpret Black’s present state of mind, scales the heights of enlightenment and declares, “At some level, he’s still asking the same question as he was when he was seven or eight—who am I? I’m not sure if it’s narcissism so much as a compulsive need to link himself to historical greatness.” As Sigmund Freud was heard to say, “That is slicing the cheese mighty thin.”
Happily to the contrary, the Chicago Reader’s media columnist Michael Miner (the Reader is NOW magazine on smart drugs), who, having gently admonished segments of the Canadian press for conflating and to some degree mistaking American for frontier justice, goes on to make a devilishly clever case for Black’s defence in front of a Chicago jury:
“If Black wanted to concoct a narrative that a populist jury would buy, the paper those populists all know well might be the place to start. Lord Black of Crossharbour to his jury: ‘I own up to my sins. Yes, I am a Lord. What’s worse, I am a capitalist, a man who delights in making money, believes he deserves to make it, and claps the back of the man who makes it with me. But I refuse to be branded as what my accusers have called me: kleptocrat. In 1994, my business partner David Radler and I purchased the Chicago Sun-Times, a paper you all know well, and I assure you we didn’t have to stand in line to buy it. Second-tier newspapers are a vanishing commodity, and at the time the Sun-Times—owned by an underfinanced investment banker in New York—had one foot in the grave. Ours was the sort of brave, perhaps foolish purchase that no kleptocrat would have considered for a second. But we believed in the Sun-Times, we believed in Chicago, and we thought we could make the Sun-Times work.’”
And on it goes for some thousand-odd words. If there’s no doubt creeping into your heart and mind as to the guilt of our Lord Black after reading Miner’s essay, you are a colder-blooded creature than I.