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beyond whose reasonable doubt?

This week we have been treated to the spectacle of lawyers arguing over Brian Rooney. Mr. Rooney is the murderer of Michelle Gardner-Quinn '07, whom he threw off the side of a mountain after chloroforming her, raping her, and slaughtering her, one early morning during the University's Parents / Homecoming Weekend in October 2006. She had been a senior transfer student, transferring away from a university in a high-crime urban area: here maybe seven weeks.

They are arguing about Rooney's anxiety, his confessions and non-confessions, and 'was he read his rights', and other police procedures. Whether, and what, the jury should hear about this. As if anybody in Burlington can claim to be impartial and hold no opinions --- with all the media coverage, some of it international.

Because Mr. Rooney is a survivor and Michelle is not, he has lots of constitutional rights. Many more, in fact, than he afforded her as he held out the bait of his cellphone to her that night.

The Founding Fathers knew all about Royal Justice, it's why they wrote up the Fifth Amendment and lots of other ones. They did not know anything about DNA matching, the procedures hadn't been invented yet.

Therefore we are also treated to the fact that Mr. Rooney's DNA was found on Michelle's clothing and in fact inside her corpse. It recalls the DNA matches between OJ Simpson and blood found all over the murder scene when he murdered his wife Nicole and a passerby in 1994: the lab proved that the chance that OJ had NOT done it was one in 410 billion.

And Judge Ito in 1995 ruled that the jury could not be informed of it --- because they would immediately convict him and therefore deny him his right to a fair trial.

The intention of the Founding Fathers in 1787 was to protect Americans from predatory government actions which would threaten individual rights. In 2008, we know all about predatory governments erasing individual rights. It seems a great perversion of that intention: to swing so far in the other direction that predators are protected enough to feel safe in being judge, jury, and executioner all in one if they choose.

Tonight is the first Saturday night that everyone is back on campus: the new semester is six days old. Freshmen reading the headlines then are sophomores now. Hopefully, with memories.

Being Saturday, there will be partying, and doubtless people walking alone up the hill back to their dorms in the middle of the night. Hopefully with cellphones that work.

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kiota too late for the stars
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Moonfire Marion Bridge / Brad

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