• Good argument for abolishing trial by jury in this one.

  • That is one way of looking at it, LC. This is evidence that we should rewrite the Bill of Rights and tear up the Constitution. Alternatively, we could agree this is the system working as it should with checks and balances.

  • I think any case where a jury awards $1m to a man whose story makes no sense, is totally inconsistent with every other shred of testimony and documentation, and whose own background is so untrustworthy so as to mean the case caption itself is not even right because the plaintiff lies about his name is not exactly a shining example of the system “working.” That something like this even made it to this “jury” is offensive.

  • I will say it is fairly extraordinary for the court to overrule the jury on questions of fact. The standard is very high, and i am not sure having read the decision i understand why it wasn’t met. the blog post says that lots of people say he told differnet people he fell without being pushed. But that’s a credibility call that typically is left to the jury.

    Which is not to say that the court of appeals is wrong. just that it is extraordinary and i would have liked to see more before stamping them as affirmatively right. instead i am left with a giant I don’t know.

    And don’t go thinking i just said i found this guy’s story credible at all. i didn’t. the fact is that 12 people did, apparently, and i am not ready to say that there is no way they could have been right, even if the odds look significantly against them.

    That being said, as a lawyer juries are both good and bad. on one hand, they are less inclined to kick a case on a technicality. on the other hand, sometimes those technicalities matter.

    the right to trial by jury has a checkered history, that is for sure. on one hand, they made it impossible to convict clansman for their terrorism for decades in the south. the example of the murderer of metger evers getting away with it until he was a very old man would be exhibit A in that debate. on the other hand, there is the zenger trial. Zenger was accused of slandering the colonial governor back when we were a British Colony. Zenger’s lawyers asked to put on truth as a defense and the judge said no. so they said to the jury, since they won’t let us assert truth as a defense, set him free. and they did. in my gut, i have to believe that more often than not 12 ordinary people will make the right decision. if they can’t be trusted with that, then you have to wonder if democracy is a viable system of government.

    That’s my two cents.

  • A.W.: There’s not much more to the story that you would need to know. I outlined all the major testimony. Jury found one way, appellate judges determined the jury was irrational. They have that power under law but of course the question many still have is whether they should have exercised it here. Interesting case for sure.

  • Good argument for abolishing trial by jury in this one.

    Not really. Any system that you create will always have outlier verdicts. The issue is whether there is an appellate system in place to take care of those outliers.

  • I doubt the outlier theory suggested by Eric T above.

    Anita Lipton has a terric paper “RECOVERED MEMORIES IN THE COURTS”. Cases were 0 in 1983, peaked in 1993 and fell back to 0 in 1998.
    “The epidemic of repressed memory claims emerged in the mid-1980’s in a climate of national remorse for past failure to acknowledge the problem of child abuse and incest. Statistics on the prevalence of sexual abuse varied widely, with some stating that as many as one in every four women had been victimized. The political dynamics at the time led to an uncritical embracing of naive models of psychological constructs such as repression. Emotion-laden “survivor” stories became a staple of television talk shows. Popular books that oversimplified terms such as repression and dissociation and touted the curative power of unearthing memories filled shelves in the “recovery” sections of bookstores. Many newspapers and magazines contained advertisements placed by practitioners who claimed to specialize in recovering memories of abuse or treating abuse victims. Many who empathized with abuse victims were persuaded that memories of horrible abuse could be hidden away from consciousness for decades, only to come flooding back in adulthood. Consequently, in the mid-1980’s half the states changed their statutes of limitations for victims of childhood abuse, making it easier for women and men who believed they had recovered memories of long-ago abuse to sue the alleged “perpetrators.”


    The priest problem looks an awful lot like the repressed memory problem, and the repressed memory theory was used in the prosecution of Father Shanley.

    When dealing with numbers, “there were a lot of claims” one has to look to the base exposure. There were a lot of claims of Audi sudden acceleration years ago, the 60 minutes fiasco, but careful analysis showed the events had to be driver error, pressing on the accelerator when one thought he was pressing on the brake.

    The recent Toyota claims seem to be misapplication error too. The complaints about Toyota cars were related to 100 million driving years of exposer. There are 46,000 priests in the United states and the allegations of abuse cover between 460,000 and 1,000,000 exposure years.

    Movies, television dramas, and perceived wisdom would give credence to a story of being thrown off a roof by the police. Sadly few people, even highly educated people, have the intellectual discipline to weigh a belief against evidence.

  • William, maybe those who are making charges against priests in Europe–and the Pope himself–may need a refresher course in the history of recovered-memories in the U.S. courts. I would not want to wait ten or fifteen years, to find that a large number of these cases (much like in the U.S.) were recovered-memory cases.
    Another good reason to keep statutes of limitation, instead of retroactively allowing the civil suits or criminal charges (except where the law normally had no statute of limitations).
    By the way, wouldn’t changing the law to amend or eliminate statutes of limitation, then bringing charges or civil suits….possibly be a violation of ex post facto law?

  • Ron,
    I say: ….the system “IS NOT” working as it should with checks and balances…

    NYC taxpayers are out hundreds of thousands in defense costs. A real checks and balances system would have loser pays, which would either pay NYC back for all their costs, or (more likely) prevent the attorney from ever filing a suit he knew (or should have known) was bogus to begin with.