Verdict on a Jury: Not Guilty

April 14, 1993

When Rep. Harold Ford, the black Memphis Democrat, was charging that he could not get a fair trial from a federal jury of 11 whites and one black all chosen from outside his city, we said here, "There are studies showing a correlation between the races of jurors and their verdicts, but the trend is away from that. The jury in this case can give Representative Ford a fair trial, we believe."

It did. Last Friday he was acquitted of all 18 counts of fraud and conspiracy. The verdict on the jury is clearly "not guilty of racism." Representative Ford tried to get the jurors dismissed. Now he says, "We had good citizens on this jury who didn't fall for what the government was giving out." We guess that's an apology of sorts. Now the Department of Justice and the Congressional Black Caucus, which similarly insulted the jurors before the trial, should apologize.

We said in the same editorial that we believed the black community would respect a jury that convicted Representative Ford. There had been threats of violence if the congressman was convicted. He himself had stirred up a lot of race-related anger with speeches that used to be called demagogic when white politicians in Memphis and other nearby points employed them to arouse whites against the civil rights movement. But we had faith in the good sense and good citizenship of the black citizens of Memphis.

Representative Ford revealed himself to be someone who irresponsibly put selfish interests above all others when he defended his racist tactics of trying to intimidate the judge and jurors with threats by saying, "I was playing for my life. I wasn't playing a game."

Criminal trials are not games. To stir emotions in a way that could result in racial strife is disgraceful. How much different the congressman's conduct is than that of the many black voices in Los Angeles, including Rodney King's, telling the black communities that whatever the verdict on the policemen accused of beating Mr. King, the trial was a fair one, untainted by racism, and that they should react accordingly.

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