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A Severe Absence of Rats

Marc Munroe Dion on

Sitting in courtrooms isn't an art. It is the process of hibernation, being asleep enough not to hear everything but awake enough to hear anything important. It is the light semisleep of a man whose pregnant wife is two weeks overdue and sleeping next to him.

Reporters know the day's action in a trial is likely to hinge on one evidentiary ruling, one small word. It's the endless business of trying to keep the innocent from being found guilty, and it's as exciting as the business of selling applesauce wholesale.

People think the business of the law is to punish the guilty, but the real business of law is to protect the innocent.

This is why Donald Trump is being given every chance, because the phrase "innocent until proven guilty" is a difficult burden to shift. Fast justice, and attempts at fast justice, generate lynch mobs, not verdicts.

So, like the bored reporter on the hard bench in the courtroom, we hear the little words that move lives, and we wait for the moment when we can dash out into the hallway and call the editor with a verdict.

In terms of a jury, it's possible to say that there is no place in America where Donald Trump can be tried by an impartial jury, but because it is impossible to have him tried by members of an uncontacted tribe in the Amazon, Americans will have to do the jury work.

I covered enough trials to admire juries. With the exception of race, American juries are astoundingly able to pick the little pieces of truth out of the verbal mountain shoveled at them by the attorneys. That admiration is tinged with a bit of sadness when you realize that a particularly intelligent jury verdict very often means that a collection of "ordinary" people possesses a great amount of intellectual ability they were never encouraged or even allowed to use by parents, schools and jobs.

 

As Trump trundles to and from court, hawking sneakers and sacred scripture along the way, he is proof that the once glowing example of "omerta," the vow of silence taken by La Cosa Nostra members, is healthiest not among criminals but among the governing classes.

There are almost no traditional wise guys left because they were all testifying against each other. I've covered criminal investigations in which defendants were "ratted out" by boyfriends, girlfriends, fellow gang members, lifelong friends and anyone else scared of doing 20-to-life. A long career as a reporter has left me with the idea that any case without a wiretap and a "rat" is evidence of severe laziness on someone's part.

The governed snitch on each other to knock six months off a two-year sentence. The governing classes shut up, and their oath of office is more binding than that "picture of a saint burning in my hand" oath we see in an endless string of mob movies that pander to white audiences who like to think that white people still run things out on the streets.

There are probably a half-dozen unindicted people in government, or on its fringes, who could rat Donald Trump out to the point that his next "empire" would be in the kitchen of a state penitentiary where he might someday get to decide who gets the biggest portion of ham loaf in the cafeteria tonight.

No one is stepping up because no one's in danger of doing any time. Better to watch and wait and not break your oath.

To find out more about Marc Dion, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com. Dion's latest book, a collection of his best columns, is called "Mean Old Liberal." It is available in paperback from Amazon.com and for Nook, Kindle, and iBooks.


 

 

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