27 May 2010

Whenever an Appeal Is Made to Law

Late in Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz, his fourth novel in the series, L. Frank Baum took a cue from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and tried to create a bitterly satirical courtroom scene. Of course, he had a different sensibility, so instead of nonsense and madness the scene was full of vaudeville cross-talk and some genuine moral questions (with the cross-talk eventually drowning out the moral answers).

The case began when people suspected Dorothy’s pet kitten Eureka of eating a piglet. Princess Ozma, still relatively new at ruling, did her best to bring about justice.

“I will summon the Court to meet in the Throne Room at three o’clock,” replied Ozma. “I myself will be the judge, and the kitten shall have a fair trial.”

“What will happen if she is guilty?” asked Dorothy.

“She must die,” answered the Princess.

“Nine times?” enquired the Scarecrow.

“As many times as is necessary,” was the reply. “I will ask the Tin Woodman to defend the prisoner, because he has such a kind heart I am sure he will do his best to save her. And the Woggle-Bug shall be the Public Accuser, because he is so learned that no one can deceive him.”

“Who will be the jury?” asked the Tin Woodman.

“There ought to be several animals on the jury,” said Ozma, “because animals understand each other better than we people understand them. So the jury shall consist of the Cowardly Lion, the Hungry Tiger, Jim the Cab-horse, the Yellow Hen, the Scarecrow, the Wizard, Tik-tok the Machine Man, the Sawhorse and Zeb of Hugson’s Ranch. That makes the nine which the law requires, and all my people shall be admitted to hear the testimony.”

They now separated to prepare for the sad ceremony; for whenever an appeal is made to law sorrow is almost certain to follow—even in a fairyland like Oz.
I mention this episode because at this moment I’m reporting for jury duty.


nyrdyv said...

The real question though is what is playing on the TV in the waiting room for potential jurists? Where I came from, the TV is set to Fox News and can not be changed...


Steven G. Willis

J. L. Bell said...

Sounds awful, and potentially prejudicial, given how any national news channel could report on a local case these days. The only TV in the Middlesex County juror assembly room is used to show an orientation video. After that, we had to rely on internet connections and reading for entertainment.