Most of the interesting links today seem political. Apparently, I use the world’s best razor.
Democrat Terry McAuliffe currently leads in Virginia’s gubernatorial election. McAuliffe had lost in the 2009 primary to State Senator Creigh Deeds, who then went on to lose in an 18 point landslide to Bob McDonnell. McAuliffe lucked into the nomination at just the right time, as Republicans nominated Ken Cucinelli, the far-right state Attorney General essentially forcing out the moderate Lieutenant Governor. But I’m surprised that Cucinelli’s biggest problem seems to be his ties to McDonnell. McAuliffe is an old friend of the Clintons, and ran Hillary’s 2008 presidential campaign, so if he wins election in an important swing-state, I could see him as her running mate, given the lack of alternatives among the Democrats who supported Clinton over Obama in 2008.
But that judgment isn’t self-evidently correct. If 10 guilty people escape punishment, then the deterrent effect of the criminal law will be significantly weakened, and wrongdoers will be set free to do more wrong, potentially putting innocent lives in jeopardy. The reaction to the Zimmerman verdict also raises a question: If the reasonable-doubt standard were put to a vote, would a majority support it?
As a matter of history, this standard wasn’t centrally focused on protection of the innocent. As Yale Law School professor James Whitman has shown, the standard was rooted directly in Christian theology. The goal was to protect the souls of jurors who might otherwise be at risk of damnation.
As Whitman writes, “premodern Christian theology turned in particular on the problem of ‘doubt,’” which was “the voice of an uncertain conscience, and it had to be obeyed.” The older Christian tradition regarded conviction of the innocent as a potentially mortal sin. In these circumstances, the reasonable-doubt standard would serve, in Whitman’s words, “to ease the fears of those jurors who might otherwise refuse to pronounce the defendant guilty.”
The paranoid in me fears that it would become too easy to accuse people of crimes they didn’t commit.
While typing this entry, I got an automated phone call alerting me about an amber alert for a local missing child. I can appreciate the desire to convey this information, but I don’t think it’s a good idea for the government to have automated calls after 11PM, unless it’s likely to be of interest to people getting ready to go to bed.
Two interesting primaries. Liz Cheney will challenge Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi, who has a rather conservative record. The main argument for Cheney is that a woman under fifty is preferable to an elderly man who has been in office since 1996. Also, that Cheney is likely to be a more vocal advocate for Republican values. Illinois Attorney General will not run for Governor, leaving the Democratic primary between incumbent Pat Quinn and former Commerce Secretary and Obama Chief of Staff Bill Daley.
Freshman Congressman Tom Cotton aims to be the next Senator from Arkansas. But he has to defeat Mark Pryor, the incumbent Democrat. In 2010, incumbent Blanche Lincoln got less than 40 percent of the vote against John Boozman.
Democrats have trouble against Republican incumbents. Presumably the situation won’t be as bad for them as 2010 when they were unable to get anyone against John Thune, a man who had barely won election in 2004 and lost a bid for Senate in 2002. It always surprises me when they can’t even get some local lawyer or professor, if only to take advantage of a possible scandal, like the ones in San Diego, where Mayor Bob Milner’s former fiancee has called on him to resign.