Friday, September 30, 2005

Corruption in America

John Gotti, Jr was recently acquitted (although by a hung jury) and House Majority Leader Tom Delay was recently indicted by a grand jury. Is it possible that the Mafia is more upstanding than our own Congress? If Delay is convicted will that be a sign that we need to change some of the fundamentals of the way we choose our leaders?


Gib said...

One - "acquitted" and "hung jury" are two separate things. An acquittal occurs when a jury agrees on a verdict of not guilty. The defendant is discharged and can never be tried again on the same offense. A hung jury occurs when the jury cannot agree on a verdict. A mistrial is declared, and the defendant can be re-tried at the prosecutor's discretion. The prosecution wins the overwhelming majority of retrials, as they get to correct their mistakes. The major benefit to Gotti is that he was granted bail this time pending the decision to re-try. Unless and until the case is dismissed, he remains on the hook for it.

An indictment simply occurs when a grand jury believes there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed (in DeLay's case, various forms of money laundering and campaign finance law violations), and that the person named has committed said offense. It's not really true that a prosecutor can get a ham sandwich indicted (a turkey club, maybe, but not ham), but the procedure takes place with fewer limits on admission of evidence, and the defense has less opportunity to challenge the evidence.

I also don't get how a New York jury's actions related to a separate action taken by a Texas grand jury. Mafia figures have been ducking convictions for decades, though they're not as good at it as they used to be. And politicians have been charged with corruption for decades. There's always a risk when elevating someone to power that they will decide they have been put above the rules. The risk of letting people choose their leaders is we occasionally get it wrong. (We are talking, after all, about the same American public that made a sequel to Deuce Bigalow a financially sound decision.)

Sandcastle said...

Gotti was acquitted of some of the charges, and the jury was hung on others. I don't think the difference between New York and Texas jurors is meaningful. I believe the only way to keep politicians is to submit them to regular interrogations similar to those given to suspected terrorists. Each 4 year term will be followed by a 4 week interrogation. Any politician not executed or exiled will then have the opportunity for reelection. And both Deuce Bigelow movies were funny. Admittedly low brow humor, but funny.