Let’s just stipulate that I’ve offered the “John Edwards is a disgusting human being” intro that appears to be obligatory. Nonetheless, count me delighted with the mistrial in his trial for purported campaign finance violations.
After nine days’ deliberation, a federal jury in North Carolina declined to convict Edwards on all six felony charges, acquitting him outright on one and hanging on the rest. The result is a stinging defeat for the Justice Department, which has not decided whether to retry him on the latter five counts. Here’s hoping Attorney General Holder decides to leave well enough — or, better, overkill enough — alone. The case reminds us of two important things.
First, the American justice system is rightfully the envy of the world. It produces plenty of errors (most of which get corrected by the system itself) and it is surely guilty of sundry excesses. But it is unparalleled in accomplishing its main purpose: ensuring a fair trial even for loathsome characters. Edwards is rightfully held in low esteem in the court of public opinion. In a judicial court, however, this rarely matters. Jurors drawn from the community tend to be extraordinarily conscientious. They heed the judge’s legal instructions, particularly that cases must be decided based solely on evidence, not fear or favor.