I’ve now received sufficient inquiries from readers to justify the risk of colliding my worlds as a professional stage director, an ethicist and a blogger.
The final production of my quixotic theater company in Arlington, Virginia, “Twelve Angry Men” by Reginald Rose, is playing through August 8. After that, the American Century Theater closes its metaphorical curtains (we perform in a black box theater, in the round for this show) forevermore after 2o rewarding, daring, frustrating years. I know a lot of Ethics Alarms readers live in the Washington D.C, area, and I would love to meet you face to face for a change, which, if you come to a performance, is easy (though you have to let me know when—I don’t see every one.)
You can get information and make reservations here; there are some representative reviews of the show here and here. Some background on the theater’s closing is here. I’ve written about some ethics issues in the movie (which is the script I directed for the stage) here, here and here.
For many reasons, this is as good a version of the story as you are ever likely to see, and in all honesty and modesty, that includes the classic movie. The script is better live on stage than on film (it is about all the jurors and the jury as a unit, not just Henry Fonda), it cannot be done justice on a proscenium stage; the cast is superb, and the director is a lawyer, an ethicist and a successful stage director who has studied the script for 30 years and directed it three times before to work the kinks out.
If you come, I’ll seat you myself.
Hope you can make it.
Update: You can hear a podcast, hosted by me, about the production here.
Stop blaming the juries!
Once again, a criminal trial with racial overtones has caused an outbreak of criticism over a jury verdict and the jury system, by those who have a professional obligation to know better.
This time, it’s the so-called “loud music case,” that just ended with the accused, Michael Dunn, convicted of four charges (three of attempted second-degree murder) with the fifth charge, first-degree murder, resulting in a jury stalemate. Dunn claimed that he acted in self-defense when he repeatedly fired a gun at an SUV containing four African-American teens in 2012, over an altercation regarding their playing music too loudly. One of those teens, unarmed 17-year-old Jordan Davis, was killed by his gunfire.
CNN news anchor Don Lemon, in a series of rants on his show and also on Twitter, announced to his audience that Dunn should be convicted of first degree murder, and that Lemon would be outraged if he was not. Continue reading
Their defendant was probably guilty too.
Ethics Alarms All-Star Lianne Best sent me this link about a member of the Casey Anthony jury who is going into hiding because of all the hate and criticism being directed at jury members and their controversial verdict. Her plight, which must be shared by other members of the much-maligned jury, highlights the unethical, not to mention ignorant, reaction of the public to the Florida ex-mother’s narrow escape from a murder conviction she almost certainly deserved.
The problem begins with publicity. We may need to re-examine the logic behind broadcasting high-profile cases. The combination of live courtroom feeds and quasi-semi-competent commentary gives viewers the mistaken belief that they are qualified to second guess the jury, and they are not. They are not because the jury is in the courtroom, and the viewers aren’t. The jury and TV watchers see different things; individuals communicate different emotions and reactions in person than they do on camera. There is only one fair and sensible way to answer those on-line instant polls that ask, “Do you think Casey Anthony should be found guilty?”, and that is “I don’t know.”
Most of all, the viewers and pundits are not present in the jury room. Continue reading