News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Judge, jury performed tough, important task

Whether you agree with the acquittal of Richard Scrushy or not, his marathon trial was a reminder of the sacrifices judges and jurors make.

The founding fathers were cognizant of the burden jury trials would place on the public but deemed the institution too important to omit.

"I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man," Thomas Jefferson wrote, "by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution."

The burden is not only heavy, it is disproportionate. Many have never served on a jury. The unlucky few dragged into Mr. Scrushy's courtroom sat through 56 days of testimony and 800 exhibits.

Judges get paid for sitting through trials, but it is unlikely they get paid enough to make up for the time and stress that goes with a high-profile trial like this one.

The judge who got the dubious honor, U.S. District Judge Karen Bowdre, was even a neophyte. She was the target of much criticism by those trying to fill half-hour news slots, and she was not seasoned enough to ignore them.

"I can't say it hasn't hurt me," she told The Birmingham News after the trial ended. As much as she wanted to avoid the trial, she knew she had no legally valid reason to recuse herself.

"I decided to grin and bear it, suck it up and do my job."

Ongoing legal battles will keep Mr. Scrushy in the news for a good while longer, which means Judge Bowdre and the jurors will hear themselves attacked in the future.

Before the onslaught continues, however, we hope they will accept our thanks. Society saddled them with an enormous task, and they did their best to accomplish it.

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