Thursday, March 10, 2005

10 March 2005: Trials

You think the Michael Jackson trial is a little weird, what with the key witnesses being fifteen and thirteen years old?

The Albert Smith murder trial in north-west Arkansas is even weirder. Not only was a witness called yesterday who was only five years old, but they wouldn't actually let the witness into the court-house to start with, ostensibly because the witness, one Murphy Smith, was a dog.

Called because the defendant had written Murphy a letter while in jail (like that makes it more normal? Can this doggy read??), Murph was eventually allowed in after his guardian, Albert's brother Darrel, showed the deputy on the door the subpoena. They went in, met with the prosecuting lawyers, and were allowed to go. Murph didn't take the stand, more's the pity.

Somehow though, with all these high-profile court cases, it reminded me of one I'd almost forgotten about. No, not Saddam -- that hasn't started yet, of course -- I was actually thinking of Slobodan Milosevic. Remember that case? Huge fanfares in February 2002 as he was put on trial for war crimes - the biggest trial of its kind since the Nazis. That was back when I used to work for QAS, which seems a long time ago now. Since then, Milosevic has managed to be ill, drag questioning out, avoid personal responsibility (which sets an interesting precedent) and in addition, the US has decided that it (the US) isn't answerable to such a court (final paragraph of that link) in case such charges were ever to be brought against Americans. Which means the whole thing has dragged on into a fourth year now, no sign of an end in sight, and Milosevic himself looking redder in the cheeks than ever. Chances he'll get found guilty? More likely he'll pass away first given that his rate of blood pressure growth seems to be hugely outstripping the rate of progress of his case. The case has already outlived the judge who began proceedings all those years ago. Even the BBC News site, respected for its up-to-datedness and thorough handling of global events, hasn't updated its official Milosevic Trial site since August 2004.

Which begs the question, why didn't they just tell Milosevic this at the start of the trial? "Pending further developments, Mr Milosevic, we sentence you to come to this courtroom every day for the rest of your natural life." Some people might find that even more scary than prison. Although coming from a family of lawyers, I shouldn't really say that.

Solution to all this? Well, if they got a few dogs in to the Milosevic or Jackson cases, at least it might speed things along a bit.

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