I’ve had two or three loyal readers take the time to write comments about William Zervakos and his age. William Zervakos is nearly 70 years old and the woman on trial was only 27 at the time she murdered Travis Alexander.
Should a 70-year-old man judge a 27-year-old woman? Should a Native American judge a non-Native American? Should people with blond hair judge brunettes? Should really tall people judge really short people?
All of those questions are easily answered when you realize that none of those questions are valid. Who should judge who is specified in the American criminal justice system. Follow the rules of the system and the questions of who should be on the jury are all answered. Once picked to be on the jury, everything is kosher. But the system is just a little bit more complicated than that. It’s not like, you just pick the first 12 people to show up for jury duty. In reality, a pool of potential jurors reports for jury duty. One at a time, each potential juror is questioned and then either approved and accepted as a juror or rejected.
The magic, if there is any, is in that questioning of the potential juror. This is the place where the prosecution and defense tries to pick the right people. The right people will be those jurors who will be most likely to bring the desired verdict. I mentioned in a previous article that in more important cases the defense team will spend relatively large sums of money to bring in consultants from the mental health field, to help pick each jury member. That’s the magic of it all.
How does age factor into this? Directly, it does not factor in at all. Indirectly, it may be a factor. William Zervakos brought up the issue of age when he commented in a number of places about how “young” Jodi Arias appeared. What can we tell from this? From William Zervakos’ perspective Jodi Arias appeared “young.” We know that because he told us that, repeatedly when interviewed. Is Jodi Arias young? It’s a matter of perspective. If at 27, she had called a pediatrician to schedule an appointment for a physical, the receptionist would have told her “you’re too old.” If your 17-year-old child comes home and tells you that they want to date a 27-year-old, you are likely to say “that’s too old.”
Let’s look to scientific design for just a moment. When designing an experiment, we would like to eliminate every variable except our variable choice. This is the independent variable. Not to sound too much like my university lectures but there can be more than one independent variable. It’s our job to eliminate the other independent variables. If we do not, those other unintended independent variables, could be responsible for the results of our experiment and at that time would be called confounding or extraneous variables.
It is not age itself that is the issue. In reality it’s the confounding variables that are the issue. Age tells us nothing, at least not directly. People of widely varying ages belong to different American cultures. We can’t say that with certainty each individual is different but we can say with certainty that it is the totality of individuals that make up, create a culture.
Age means nothing in itself. It is those things that are associated with age that can mean something.
Here’s another mind game for you to solve. Imagine two individuals. One is 92 years of age and the other 17 years of age. They both have iPods. You sneak into their rooms at night and steal each of their iPods. You place them in a black cloth bag that you purchased just for future burglaries. You then return home, with your bag of goodies, with the same excitement you had when you were younger and returning from a night of trick-or-treating. You open the bag. You have two iPods but they are both the same model. You hook up your earbuds and sample the songs on each iPod. Both iPods look exactly the same because they are both the same model.
Here’s the problem, the one you are supposed to solve. Can you tell whose iPod is whose? Now before you answer that question, let’s make it more interesting. I walk into your room and see you contemplating your new ill-gotten gains. I ask you where you got the iPods and you honestly tell me that you stole them and a little bit about the people you stole them from. You tell me one’s 92 and one’s 17. I say to you, “hey let’s make this interesting. I’ll bet you $10 that you can’t tell me which iPod belonged to the 92-year-old and which one belonged to the 17-year-old.” Do you take that bet?
Now let’s make even more interesting. I then produce my own black bag containing 100 identical iPods, 50 of which were stolen from 92-year-olds and 50 from 17-year-olds. That’s 100 iPods. I say to you, “would you like to bet $10 an iPod? If you can correctly identify each stolen iPod as belonging to a 92-year-old or a 17-year-old, I will give you $10 per iPod. If you can’t do it or you’re wrong, you’ll give me $10 an IPod.” Do you take the bet?
I think you do. Think about what that means. We are talking about cultural issues. We are talking about why defense teams spend big bucks to bring in psychological consultants to help them with jury selection. Remember, in the above mindgame, you’re not going to get 100 iPods right. You cannot know with certainty anything about someone based on age. Nonetheless, if you go out and steal 100 iPods and you bring them to me and offer me the $10 per iPod bet, I’m not only going to take that bet I am sincerely going to ask you if we can increase that to $1000 per iPod and then I’m going to retire early and devote myself full-time to this blog.
Back to William Zervakos. I have absolutely no reason to think that he has done anything wrong. He was chosen as a juror. He was asked to be the evaluator of truth and he did just that. He evaluated the evidence and gave us his judgment. Later after being dismissed and thanked by the judge for his service, he gave interviews to the media.
He tried to give us an explanation as to what thoughts went through his mind as a juror. We might disagree with those thoughts or some of his thoughts. I’m sure, that I do not agree with everything that he has reported but we do not have to agree. Other jury members, did disagree with him. We know that because he reported that.
The jurors disagreed in their deliberations. You and I can disagree.
I hope we will agree on this one point. William Zervakos’ age was not an issue. You can be 70 and look 50. You can be 70 and think like a 27-year-old. You can be 70 and have the same music on your iPod as a 17-year-old.