View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Monday, July 21, 2003

Woody Paige, Please Pick Up the White Courtesy Phone

One of the pleasure of working from home is that you occasionally get to see a local columnist make an idiot of himself on national television. Discussing the Kobe Bryant case, Woody Paige, sports columnist for the Denver Post, said on ESPN's "Around the Horn" that the trial should be moved from Eagle County to Denver since, "they're all 90% White Republicans up there, and you've got a black man accused of raping a white woman," that there was no way he could get a fair trial. Paige is wrong on the facts, wrong on principle, and Max Kellerman, the show's moderator, was wrong for not stepping in.

In the first place, Paige might want to do a little homework before seeking to disenfranchise jurors from some other part of his state. The county went for Wayne Allard in 2002's Senate election - by 56 votes out of just under 12000 cast. The county went for Democrat Udall in his House District #2 seat. Obviously, no matter how white the county is, some large percentage of them aren't Democrats. Who knows, they may even suffer from the same liberal guilt that leads Paige to crack wise about the provincials.

Then there's the question about race. Eagle County, whatever it is, is not Forsythe County, Georgia, circa 1935. The notion that a white juror can't think straight about a supposed black-on-white crime is absurd, insulting, and contrary to just about every notion of American jurispridence. These accusations only work one way, so that the only jurors capable of acting impartially in cross-race trials are blacks. There is a legitimate question of how well a county with a small population, and thus a small juror pool, can handle a trial. With only 27,000 registered voters, a fair number of the potential jurors either went to school with or had kids who went to school with the accuser. But that isn't the point he raised. He type-cast an entire county on the basis of assumptions about race a political affiliation which turned out to be wrong.

For Shame. I've sent Mr. Paige an email on the matter, but don't hold your breath waiting for contrition. And don't hold your breath waiting for the Post to take any action on this one.

Mr. Paige,

Eagle County is not "90% White Republicans," as you just spouted off on Around the Horn. It supported Mark Udall by a large margin in the 2002 US House election, and supported Wayne Allard by a whopping 56 votes - yes, 56 votes - out of just under 12,000 cast. I don't know if they're 90% white, but they sure aren't 90% Republican.

And, since when is race or political affiliation a qualification for sitting on a jury in this country? The notion that I, as a white man, can't sit on the jury of a black man accused of raping a white woman is insulting. If someone disqualified you on that basis, you'd have a holy fit.

There is a legitimate question of whether or not too many people in the county know the accuser. Clearly, one can't let friends of hers, white or black, sit on a jury. But that isn't the question you raised. You assumed that a county in rural, albeit tourist-laden, Colorado, must be a bunch of bigots. And you assumed it because they were white, and because you thought they were Republican.

Please don't trivialize the venue, either. Your colleague at the Globe, Bob Ryan, got suspended from all professional activity for a month for making comments on local, not even national, show of similar format. If you didn't intend for your words to be taken at least somewhat seriously, you wouldn't bother being on the show.

I don't know to whom you should apologize, but Eagle County voters, and potential white jurors in general would be a good place to start. Maybe Dusty Baker will give you a pass - it has been awfully hot in Denver recently, after all.

Blogarama - The Blog Directory
help Israel
axis of weevils
contact us
site sections