Tuesday, March 22, 2005


Bid for Sympathy

It was a well-known tactic in ancient courtrooms for the accused to show up unshaven, dressed in mourning, or accompanied by weeping children, in a blatant attempt to win the sympathy of the jurors.

See, for example, Aristophanes, Wasps 563-574 (tr. anonymous):
Oh! what tricks to secure acquittal! Ah! there is no form of flattery that is not addressed to the Heliast! Some groan over their poverty and exaggerate it. Others tell us anecdotes or some comic story from Aesop. Others, again, cut jokes; they fancy I shall be appeased if I laugh. If we are not even then won over, why, then they drag forward their young children by the hand, both boys and girls, who prostrate themselves and whine with one accord, and then the father, trembling as if before a god, beseeches me not to condemn him out of pity for them, "If you love the voice of the lamb, have pity on my sons;" and because I am fond of little sows, I must yield to his daughter's prayers. Then we relax the heat of our wrath a little for him.
But nothing in ancient times equals the modern-day antics of Jacko the Wacko, on trial for committing lewd acts upon a child:
Michael Jackson shuffled into court late again yesterday - disheveled, visibly shaky and accompanied by a doctor in hospital scrubs - as testimony resumed in his child molestation trial.

Wearing a rumpled charcoal suit, striped vest and sunglasses and with his hair mussed, Jackson hobbled slowly into the courtroom five minutes late, supported by aides who held his arms as he made his way to the defense table and eased into a seat.

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