This article first appeared in The Asheville-Citizen Times May 6, 2006. ©2011 The Gannett Company; All rights reserved.
As a lawyer, I sometimes chafe at derogatory comments directed toward the judicial system. Most often my reaction is elicited by some uninformed statement prompted by a judge’s ruling or jury verdict that was not popular.
In some countries the public’s confidence in the judicial system depends heavily upon the outcome of a trial. If the verdict appears to be correct, the presumption is that the trial was a fair one. In the United States we have a different approach. We believe that the best way to assure a just outcome is to require due process in the proceedings. That is, if we provide a fair trial, we can be confident that justice will be served in the verdict. The recent trial of Michelle Gibson in Jackson County is a good example of why our reliance on due process is well placed.
Ms. Gibson faced a number of charges stemming from her son’s death of heat exposure. The tragedy occurred while she was working a double shift at a nursing home in Jackson County. Devin Gibson’s death and his mother’s trial received a great deal of publicity. Ms. Gibson, an African-American, was tried by a jury that contained no African-Americans. The jury was under a great deal of stress. An innocent child was dead. They had to know that whatever decision they reached, they would be criticized and second-guessed. The stage was set for a three-ring legal circus. Yet, what unfolded was a trial of which we can all be proud. Read More