On Tuesday, the first federal trial of ‘Russiagate’ ended in an acquittal of Michael Sussman charged with lying to the FBI. Reports during the two-week trial left a lot of people scratching their head about the efficacy and fairness of our present legal system.
Well known legal analysist, Jonathan Turley who is anything but a conspiracy theorist, penned an article in The Hill entitled, Friends with Benefits: Sussman Trial Further Exposes the FBI and the Washington Establishment. True to his title, Turley explains the questionable actions which took place during the trial. Other commentators including Republicans law makers, clamored the acquittal is proof of a separate justice system for those well connected. Others say the verdict was no surprise due to the fact the trial was held in then very Democratic district of Washington D.C.
Since our legal system is predicated on the proposition a jury is charged to adjudicate the most reasonable explanation of the truth through evidentiary proceedings, the verdict henceforth is absolute and must be accepted by society. The system always gives the benefit of the doubt that a jury deliberating in good faith, should have at the very least, a rudimentary understanding of the difference between a truth and a lie.
The benefit of the doubt now comes in to question with the publication of the forewoman’s comments after the verdict. She said the charges should have never been filed in the first place. She went on to say, “I don’t think it should have been prosecuted. There are bigger things that affect the nation than a possible lie to the FBI.”
The comment, possibly shared by her fellow jurors, is nothing short of stunning. For starters, the Sussman jury stepped out of their lane and became activists instead of fulfilling their duties as the judge of facts. By admitting the case should have never come forward in the first place, the jury did not do what they were charged to do. They have no right to determine if an action should move forward, they only have the responsibility to listen to the facts and determine if the evidence supports the allegation. If future juries think they may have a right to determine a case before the evidence is presented in court, then a fatal blow to justice will follow.
The next clue into the degradation to the legal process has to do with a culture which no longer views lying or perjury as something important. Whatever the implications of lying to the FBI are, the main reason the law remains in effect is it serves as a guardrail for a free society. When truth guardrails are systematically removed from a culture, chaos ensues. The Sussman trial is a poignant example of how telling a lie is no longer a transgression and can be tolerated or even accepted. Just look at how many times the government or authorities have lied to the public without any consequences.
If there is any lesson which should be taken from the Sussman trial it is how desensitized the general public has become to lying and outright falsehoods. Too many now are willing to accept lies as no big deal. As we have seen, it is already affecting our legal system. If telling the truth is no longer a value or guardrail for society, then no one can rest easy. Nor can we have trust in a legal system which was designed to be a truth finder.