New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez (D) is currently on trial for corruption charges. During deliberations, one juror asked the judge a question that blew everyone's mind: "What is a senator?"
The trial lasted eight weeks. Senator Menendez is accused of intervening in government business on behalf of one of his wealthy friends, Dr. Salomon Melgen. In return, the prosecution argues, this donor arranged for Menendez to receive wealthy gifts and take extravagant trips.
The main question the jury is being asked to answer is whether the evidence rises to the level of quid-pro-quo bribery. However, one juror needed clarification on a much simpler question.
"What is a senator?" the juror asked the judge.
Dumbfounded, U.S. District Judge William Walls did not answer the question. He also refused to grant the same juror a transcript of the defense's closing arguments. Instead, he told the jury to think long and hard to try to remember what they heard. Hopefully, one of the jurors can remember what they learned in grade school watching Schoolhouse Rock
The entire trial was about Menendez using his power as a senator to help benefit a wealthy friend. The defense also called to the stand two other senators -- Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Corey Booker (D-NJ) -- as character witnesses. It is just mind-boggling that one juror could go through 18+ years of life and then sit through a congressional corruption trial for eight weeks -- hearing both the prosecution and defense make their cases -- and not even be able to use context to deduce what a senator is. But it is actually much more depressing than that.
The question came on the first day of deliberations, when they were gathered behind closed doors to discuss the case. With every juror in the same room, one of them still needed to ask the judge for clarification on what a senator is. The jury, as a whole, couldn't even answer that question. How can a jury be expected to decide whether a sitting senator abused his power if they can't even put their finger on the definition of a senator?
The 2012 election in New Jersey had 66.4 percent turnout. Almost two out of every three jury-eligible residents in that state cast a vote for this Senate seat. And yet, this jury -- which is supposed to accurately reflect Menendez's peers -- needed clarification over the definition of a U.S. senator.
Shaking my head ...