July 20, 2005

Jury News

Mr Neil Falloon writes...

I'm surprised by the repeated media opportunities afforded the wife of a convicted rapist to rail at her husband's jury. There's heaps of examples to choose from. The most recent was the Sunday Star Times front page: Wife of rape accused stands by her man.

It was followed by a strange feature article that used experts to guess at what the jury was thinking, despite the fact that some evidence remains suppressed.

Why is it that we're hearing so much from this woman? Why, a week after the trial ended, did one newspaper decide she was deserving of the front page? From their treatment of this woman's views, you would think that it was unusual for families of convicted criminals to continue to believe in their man (or woman).

Surely that's not the case. Isn't this woman responding to the conviction just as hundreds of other spouses do every year? She's angry and hurt. Therefore she questions the entire system that found this man and his peers guilty of pack rape.

To me, it would only be unusual, unexpected and newsworthy if the family member declared, "I once believed in this man's innocence, but the fact that he's been found guilty by his peers has changed my mind."

Everybody has the right to question the outcome of a trial. That's a right we should defend.

But should this woman's opinion in itself be news? Again and again? And on the front page? It seems almost like we're only hearing from her because she's media savvy. Most other spouses in her position are not competent at working with journalists. She's literate, eloquent and middle-class.

Some journalists apparently only attended the defence's summing up. It seems interesting that the reporters who did attend every day don't seem to have engaged in the same second-guessing of the jury's motives as other journalists.

This case is made more complicated by suppression orders. The wife's name can't even be revealed. There are key details none of us know.

The twelve members of the jury are not allowed to respond. They sat through weeks of evidence in a gruesome pack rape trial. They cannot tell us how they reached their conclusion.

Should we now expect that every single spouse of every single convicted criminal will be given front-page treatment to criticise the jury?

Somehow, I don't think so.


July 11, 2005

Where have the bears gone?

One of those conversations...

Olivia: So, are we still bloggers or not?

Neil: Is David P Farrar still a member of the Young Nats?

David: He's nearly 40. I'd really hope not.

Neil: It was a rhetorical question, along the lines of bears shitting in woods. The answer is 'of course!'

Olivia: But bears just don't shit in our woods any more. Russell Brown hasn't linked to us in weeks. Even Damian Christie hasn't mentioned us.

Neil: And you know how slutty Damian is with his links.

David: For God's sake, Neil. I'm sure you made that exact same joke the last time we had a group conversation. If not, the time before.

Neil: But it's still funny. Because it's so true. Slutty, slutty Damian.

Olivia: I was crushed that none of us were on that informative Simon Dallow live tax debate. Instead they chose to include the glamorous David P Farrar, the erudite David Slack, and the hard hitting Man Who Wrote A Letter To The Editor.

Ben: Murmur

Olivia: I think Ben is choking.

Ben: Mumble

David: No, he's trying to say something...

Ben: ...well guys ... Actually, Simon Dallow's producer, weak-chinned gay TV icon Simon Pound, called. He, uhhh, invited me on to that debate.

Olivia: And you said no?!

Ben: Ummmmm... I'm not really sure. I might have said no. Or I might have been overlooked for the glamorous David P Farrar.

David: I have to admit - and I have a queer eye for style - Farrar does have quite a mesmerising look.

Olivia: I like it how he took a fake flipper with him to the studio. That showed great class and humour.

Neil: It was like a wink to Russell Brown's beard and middle-agedness - a "don't take me too seriously" message for the kids.

Olivia: Speaking of which, did you see the Metro article by David Cohen about Russell Brown? My favourite bit - by far - was Fiona Rae glancing over at Russell "with slighly narrowed eyes."

David: I always thought David Cohen might be MediaCow. Him or Deborah Coddington...

Olivia: Anyway, are we still bloggers?

Neil: I think we could be if we wrote something. Ben, what's the most interesting thing that's happened to you recently?

Ben: I've been reading a collection of writing in Landfall, including this particular essay that's -

Olivia: - Don't lie. People don't do that.

Ben: Okay, okay. I watched a surreal episode of Beverley Hills 90210 this morning. An escaped lab dog named Rocky was living with the gang, but it had cancer. The gang debated about whether to stay by his side and comfort him, or leave him to rest. I would have thought having the cancer-ridden dog put down might have been another option worth exploring. But anyway, there was a poignant scene where one of the actors put his face near the dog and exclaimed "he's stopped breathing."

(Silence)

Olivia: That's just soooooooooooo sad.

Ben: Uhh, yeah.

Olivia: Ooooooooooooh! What about if we do one of those group conversation things again!

Ben: Those just descend into a list of bold names of people like Russell Brown, David P Farrar, Damian Christie, Simon Pound, and the Man Who Wrote A Letter to the Editor.

Olivia: Yes, and that's what I love about them! And let's remember to mention that Keith Ng. He's a star of morning television. Keith, the morning star. If we get it right, we can become a must-read of the congoscenti again - like Kevin List's "A Week of It" and David P Farrar's weblog.

Ben: I think you mean "cognoscenti".

Olivia: Perhaps.

Neil: So, we just say impolite things about other people.

Beautiful Olivia: It's important to also remember that we're trying to make ourselves sound good.

Ben: I worry we have a perception problem. The eight people who read our blog don't see the enormously constructive stuff we do. Like the column that we write for the NBR, our delightful emails to each other, or Olivia's volunteer work every Saturday morning. They may think all we do is snipe at other blogs. We used to be able to take the moral highground on account of how the rest of what we did was so good - but now we don't do anything else any more.

Neil: True. And at the risk of sounding as insightful as some of those we mock... much of what we now do is very self-referential.

Olivia: But this is really what having a weblog is all about, isn't it? We've cut the chaff, and now we're doing exactly what blogs are meant for. A blog is the safe refuge of the coward. It's the internet equivalent of looking at people "with slightly narrowed eyes."

Neil: Still, I guess we could try to do something to improve our image.

Ben: Guys, guys! Help me carry this poor cancer-ridden dog inside!


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