I am a retired businessman and the only member of my recent Salt Lake County jury pool who reported reading newspapers. Others reported following Fox, Comedy Central and MSNBC for news.
In his new book Prosecution Complex America's Race to Convict and its Impact on the Innocent, University of Utah law professor Daniel S. Medwed catalogs 15 years of wrongful convictions. Among the traits of prosecutors and jurors he identifies that lead to innocent people ending up behind bars are tunnel vision, passion and concern with public perception similar to attributes of voters.
Medwed notes that, even when faced with incontrovertible DNA evidence of innocence, some still retain a universal intransigence due to denial of the facts. That is troubling on so many levels.
If innocent people are locked away, because prosecutors and juries let emotions get in the way of fairness, what kind of decisions should we expect from voters who get their news information only from partisan TV shows and PAC commercials? The answer isn't good.
Not that we are at fault, mind you. Because we have been societally conditioned to follow slick marketing messages, we can forgive ourselves for believing the hyperbole about doom to America if "the other party" wins, or lies about the unsavory motives of current elected officials, or extreme exaggerations about the destruction of our economy.
We should, however, rise above this and not remain victimized by the very political advertising we all despise.
Let's show how fed up we are with unrestricted PAC money and TV punditry, because all that tripe hurts our relationships and, well, our humanity.
For instance, I have a friend who is certain that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is a plot by despicable Democrats to destroy the American economy. Seriously? The party of almost half the people in America wants to destroy America? Not likely.
On the other side, I have a friend who rails about how Mitt Romney and his Republican friends will continue the destruction of the American middle class by continuing to consolidate all the wealth at the top 1 percent. Why does she feel this worked up? Because MSNBC's Ed Shultz says she should be.
We know in our hearts that most of this stuff is nonsense. It is time for us all to say so and use our common sense instead of falling for the relentless smears that don't pass the smell test. The majority of us who are eligible to vote are fed up with the extremists who are egged on by PAC ads.
Let's turn off those obvious lies and that crazy rhetoric and just vote, not for a party, but for individuals based on their abilities. Come on. You know you want to.
I choose to learn more about candidates, but not from a PAC registered in Houston, Texas. So, I go to candidate websites to get points of view direct from the horses' mouths. No Sean Hannity. No Ed Shultz.
We voters are the jury who decides the fate of America.
Although university research shows that some prosecutors and juries refuse to release innocent people from jail and stay stubbornly in denial, we all don't have to act that way. Instead, let's reframe the discussion and choose those who are calm and rational instead of ideologues from both the left and right extremes who would rather fight with each other than accomplish anything good.
Let's hear directly from candidates, use our common sense to vote for the most rational and get rid of the ideologues.
Then go on-line and register to vote by mail, get our ballots and return them before the campaign mudslinging becomes any more unpleasant.
Stan Rosenzweig is a retired business owner and a registered unaffiliated voter living in Cottonwood Heights.