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December 14, 2005

1993 WTC case highlights the most egregious shortcoming of our jury system

Remember the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, in which Islamist terrorists tried to topple one of the towers into the other in the hopes of killing tens of thousands of people? The bombing, while it did not accomplish its objective, was still quite destructive.

When bad things happen, the legal system immediately swings into action in a quest to find out who is reponsible—not for the purpose of bringing the perpetrators to justice, but for the purpose of opening the floodgates for liability payouts. Because of this, it wouldn't do at all to pin the blame for the bombing on the terrorists themselves. They don't have any money.

So, what to do? Ralph Reiland gives the answer:
Now, after a dozen years of legal maneuvering, a jury in the state Supreme Court of New York has taken the terrorists off the hook for the majority of the blame in their 1993 attack. On October 26, unanimously, the jury said the guys who carried out the bombing were only 32 percent responsible for the damages.

The majority wrongdoer, 68 percent at fault for the death and destruction, said the jury, was the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the then-owner of the World Trade Center. This means that the party with the deepest pockets—also known as the taxpayers of New York and New Jersey—will be picking up the tab for most of the losses.

On the day of the 1993 blast, Mario Cuomo, New York's governor at the time, told journalists: “We all have that feeling of being violated. No foreign people or force has ever done this to us. Until now, we were invulnerable.”

Today, playing Monday-morning quarterback more than a decade after the attack, the New York jury has said the Port Authority “should have known” an attack was coming, even if, as Cuomo said, nothing like that had ever happened before. Further, the Port Authority “should have known” to shut down the garage to the public, and to its upstairs tenants, even if, as Cuomo said, no one had felt vulnerable before to a foreign force in the center of Manhattan.
This highlights one of the greatest shortcomings of our country's jury system: It's no secret that jurors are selected not for their intelligence or their reasoning ability, but for the ease in which they can be manipulated by the prosecutor or the defender. In the hands of a competent attorney, a typical jury is Silly Putty.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We need a professional jury system for civil trials or something with a committment similar to the grand jury. Until then, we are going to continue to see these "bleeding heart" type of awards.