Joe Lavin

January 27, 2004

Peer Pressure

It isn't always easy to find a jury of one's peers, and when it's Martha Stewart on trial, it's almost impossible. That's what Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum is finding out as she presides over jury selection in the Martha Stewart trial. It's so impossible to find anyone who hasn't heard of the case that Judge Cedarbaum seems to be settling for those who at least don't seem to have any preconceived notions about the case. Those conditions alone would probably eliminate about 95% of the population, who either adore everything about Martha Stewart or think she's the Anti-Christ and deserves the chair.

The idea of trying to find a jury of Martha Stewart's peers is particularly amusing and probably not such a good idea for the defense. After all, she may well have peers, but they're probably all people who do what she does but don't happen to have the TV shows, magazine, and multi-million dollar fortune. A jury of her competitors would be ruthless. I suspect they all hate her and would put her way for years -- well, except for the Fly Lady, who would probably just forgive her.

I can only imagine how the sentencing phase of the trial would go.

"Might I remind the jury that the death penalty is not an acceptable punishment for this offense?"

"Well, your honor, how about public flogging then?"

Of course, there's nothing like a celebrity trial to showcase that great American tradition, namely, trying to get the hell out of jury duty. One woman who was about to be selected managed to get herself eliminated by shouting, "Good luck, Martha!" at a key moment. Another juror had this to say: "I'm not even trying to be impartial. I think she's guilty." I wonder if such a blunt approach would work for me the next time I'm called in for jury duty.

I'm just glad I'm not in this jury pool. I've done my best to ignore Martha Stewart for so many years that I would probably be the perfect juror. Well, perhaps not THE perfect juror. That would be Prospective Juror Number 63, who had this to say: "Well, I've seen some of the products, but I have no idea who she is, I think it was at K-Mart.... It was towels and wet things."

"Wetness. It's a good thing." Actually, I don't even want to know what he means by "wet things."

Meanwhile, over in the Robert Blake trial, Christina Applegate (Married... with Children) and Harry Shearer (This is Spinal Tap, The Simpsons) were both prospective jurors. Shearer talked his way out of jury duty by claiming that the producers of The Simpsons would sue him for breach of contract if he didn't show up for work. Christina Applegate wasn't so lucky. I'm sure she tried the same tactic, except that the Judge probably didn't believe that she was actually working any more. ("But, your honor, don't you remember Jesse?") For now, much to the delight of Court TV, Applegate is still in the jury pool.

It seems strange to think about celebrities serving on juries, but I suppose it makes sense that a celebrity trial should have a celebrity jury. What better peer for Robert Blake than another washed up actor or actress? Why not get some other stars from the seventies and put them on the jury too? Starsky, Mannix, and Ponch Poncherello might just have some free time.

It's bad enough trying to find a jury for Martha Stewart or Robert Blake. Who knows how they are going to find a jury of Michael Jackson's peers? The best hope is just to put the entire Jackson family in the jury box. They're the only ones weird enough to qualify as peers. The only other option, of course, would be to use alien life forms on the jury.

Speaking of aliens, Martha Stewart, and Michael Jackson, whoever knew it would be such bad luck to have a cameo in Men in Black 2? Peter Graves had better watch out.

©2004 Joe Lavin

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