Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Jury delivers a surprising vedict

The computer on which I type this column is located in the newsroom, just south of the city desk in an area once known as "the rim." I haven’t heard it called that in years.

I still have the same comfy (and conspicuously cluttered) office I have occupied since we moved into the "new" News-Herald building on Dec. 16, 1993.

It is also inordinately dusty. It’s not my fault. Offices get dusty. Several years ago Gayle Shaw Cramer, a legend in Mentor and daughter of revered N-H columnist Julian Griffin, came and in tried to rearrange the dust. All she managed to do was minimize the dust on a statue of Bob Hope and a picture of Audie Murphy.

I type in the newsroom because there is no computer in my office. Nor should there be. Being sole possessor of a computer that is utilized only once a week could never be justified by anyone who is even minimally cost-conscious, let alone an accomplished practitioner of the art.

I usually do my typing on Monday afternoon, but as you are aware, last Monday was Independence Day, and I am not about to do anything more serious than cut the hedges on a national holiday.

So I came in on Tuesday afternoon. I had something in mind for a column. Actually, I had three things in mind. They will have to wait.

My timing Tuesday was perfect. After lunch with the boys of the Vicious Circle at Helen’s Sunrise Cafe and a full report from Bob Riggin on Bob Meil’s health (I hope he recovers quickly from that perforated colon. We need good citizens like Bob Meil in this sometimes ugly world) I made my weekly stop at the Cleveland Trust Bank to withdraw my weekly allowance.

(I know it is now called U.S. Bank. But I am a traditionalist).

By the time I arrived at The News-Herald, it was just after 2 p.m. The timing couldn’t have been better.

What I didn’t tell you was that directly behind my back in the newsroom is a television set that is always on. I have become oblivious to it. I don’t hear it any more than Jack Nicklaus ever heard crowd noise as he was standing over a putt. Jack and I have unequalled powers of concentration. That is the fairest comparison I can make between our golf games.

But I digress.

As I commenced to gather my thoughts for an essay, a modest crowd began to assemble behind me. They were not there to watch me type. An event of national significance was about to take place. The jury was about to come in.

I describe the crowd as modest because it was not nearly as large as those attracted in the past by other news of great import, including space shots and various riots.

But it was an attentive crowd. Newspaper people are notoriously curious. They want to know what is happening. They aren’t interested in soap operas. They don’t care about talk shows. They want the news, and they want it now.

"So, is the office pool still open?" I asked.

Nobody responded.

"If it is," I said, "my money says, no death sentence. She will get life without chance for parole."

Even viewing the Florida trial from as far away as Northeast Ohio, I knew Casey Anthony was an unmitigated liar. I mean, she said the baby was kidnaped by a baby sitter who never existed. There was so much more bilge that it strained one’s credulity to believe anything she said. The tales she told about her father were especially noxious.

I figured the jury would conclude she was responsible for the baby’s death, but would spare her life and make her sit in the slammer forever — or whatever passes for forever in Orlando. Boy, was I surprised! What a shocker! Not guilty on all three murder counts! Guilty only on four counts of lying to the cops.

I know a little bit about how juries work. I have viewed both criminal and civil juries up close for 60 years. I have sat on a couple of juries (before they found out who I was and tossed me off) and was pleased to serve as foreman of the Lake County Grand Jury four or five years ago thanks to an appointment by Common Pleas Judge Vince Culotta.

And I have never seen anything as shocking as the verdicts returned in the Anthony murder trial.

If you say it was exactly what you anticipated, I would like to place you under oath and have you say it again.

But this is the greatest country in the world. The jury system works. I don’t care what Geraldo Rivera says.

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