Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Trial is Friday

 On Friday at 1:30 p.m. in the studio at Heritage School, The Crown Court of Nursery Rhyme Crimes will convene a jury to try Goldilocks for criminal trespass and theft. I will be the judge. Other parents are playing the witnesses in the trial: the nosy neighbour with a vendetta, the astonishingly incompetent arresting officer, the defendant Goldilocks and the star witness, Papa Bear, head of the Bear Family.

My son goes to Heritage School and I can't think of a part of his actual heritage that is more important than the rule of law. Remember that idea? That old canard? The idea that individuals, those in power and even sovereign nations themselves are bound to act under a moral code.  I think this mock trial will be a decent reminder of the idea of the rule of law - constraints on behaviour in the interests of fairness - constraints that bind authorities as well as people. This is really something we could usefully get behind these days. Trials are in their best carnation paths to truth and justice given us by our Greek ancestors but preserved and embellished by Christians from Bury St. Edmond to Jackson, Mississippi. Directly from the Christian tradition sprang the idea at the heart of a criminal trial: that even the lowliest, most hated member of the community has a right to be treated fairly. This idea of rights were imbued by nothing else than God's perfect and equal love for everyone, and especially the least of us. At least I think this is really what motivated the barons who swore the oath at Bury St. Edmunds on the altar of the church to fight King John for the concessions of power that became the Magna Carta.

Some of the first concessions signed at Runnymede were the best: habeus corpus, protection of individual ownership of property, and, yes, you guessed it, jury trials. Jury trials weren't new, but they were - and to me continue to be - the best way man has devised of getting at the truth while here on earth - two sides, adversaries, presenting facts and making arguments, and the ultimate decision of guilt or innocence put to disinterested peers, who swear to be fair and try to figure out the truth.  To live in community is to all figure out the truth together, under the rule of law.  So either Goldilocks is a honey addict who has been knocking off ursine residences in the woods for years, or she is a lost little girl, hungry and alone and frightened by black clouds and thick, threatening trees into a lovely magical cottage with an open door beckoning. The jury will have to decide.

We did the same trial two years ago and Goldilocks was convicted, although I thought that one little boy, given enough time, could have pulled a 12 Angry Men. This year I predict that Goldlocks is convicted - it's a real law-and-order crowd at that school. I don't really mind, although I would like to see a Goldilocks acquittal one of these years, because there's a huge burden of proof issue you could argue for the win.

I got into this racket at Skadden when I volunteered to put on a mock trial for Take Your Daughters To Work Day. Which at Skadden was more like Let Your Employer Feed and Entertain Your Children So You Bill Hours Day.  It was so fun, and the kids were mindblowingly good. So when Owain moved to Heritage School with their Friday Enrichment Programme, I volunteered to write a new one: Crown v Goldilocks. Rest assured I know nothing of the specifics of English law. But I do know that my husband has a polar bear costume and when he wears just the head, hands and feet and a business suit, he makes a hilarious Papa Bear.


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