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Doug Clark: Gag on prejudicial language spiffs up defendant’s image

I see that a federal judge has banned prosecutors from using terminology like “Hells Angels,” “Mongols” and “gangs” in the upcoming Ricky Jenks trial.

Thank God. Nobody wants to see our sacred judicial process tainted by reality.

As anyone who has studied the law or Judge Joe Brown episodes would know, nothing can be more unfair and prejudicial than reality in a courtroom.

How do you think jurors would react at hearing that Jenks is the sergeant-at-arms for the Washington state chapter of that notorious biker gang, the Hells Angels?

They could be highly prejudiced, that’s what.

True, those facts have already appeared in the newspaper numerous times. But that would only give a judge pause if anyone were still reading newspapers.

Oh, well. As long as we’re on this complex subject, allow me to explain how reality is kept from poisoning our justice system.

It all begins with what is called “Voir Dire Straights.”

This is a Latin term meaning, “seating the jury with a jazzy pop sound.”

By posing a series of insulting personal questions, defense attorneys are able to exclude those potential jurors who exhibit negative traits like gumption or a deep sense of right and wrong.

The goal is to hopefully wind up with 12 people who don’t know a whole lot outside of who won the last “Dancing With the Stars.”

This is what our system calls “a jury of your peers.”

The last thing the legal system wants is a genius on a jury.

At least that’s the excuse I always give to explain why I’ve never been called to jury duty – NOT EVEN ONCE!

In another move to keep reality at bay, defendants are encouraged to take a bath, get a haircut, slap on some pit stick and put on a really nice suit. Don’t worry, if you cannot afford a nice suit, one will be appointed to you. It’s the law.

This way a defendant can sit in court looking like a million bucks and not at all like some meth-crazed lunatic.

Trust me. Should the Barefoot Bandit ever wind up in a trial he’ll be barefoot in nickname only. They’ll have the kid spiffed up and wearing the shiniest pair of wingtips you’ve ever seen.

The point being that U.S. District Judge Justin Quackenbush was on solid legal ground when he issued his nomenclature no-no’s in the aforementioned Jenks matter.

According to a news report, the judge told prosecutors they could only refer to Jenks as being a member of a “motorcycle club” or possibly the Jaycees.

But mark my words. The day is coming when, before a trial ever begins, the judge will hand prosecutors a complete Fairness Glossary outlining what they can and can’t say about a precious defendant.

You know, like …

CAN’T SAY – “Dope pusher.”

CAN SAY – “Buzz manager.”

CAN’T SAY – “Burglar.”

CAN SAY – “Wealth redistributor.”

CAN’T SAY – “Killer.”

CAN SAY – “Afterlife escort.”

CAN’T SAY – “Lying pervert.”

CAN SAY – “Anthony Weiner.”

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at dougc@spokesman.com.


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