Wednesday, March 10, 2004

A word on Martha

I didn't follow the Martha Stewart trial. It was there, in the background, and it didn't really strike me as important. Plain old celebrity-gawking, celebrity-bashing, the little people stickin' it to the man. Martha had abused her position and was getting her comeuppance.

But something's not sitting right with me. Enough with the jokes about the food and decor in prison. I get the feeling no one actually knows what that trial was about. They just want to see the rich bitch get hers.

Post-verdict, Charlie Rose had as one of his guests trial attorney David Boies (the Miscrosoft antitrust case; Napster; Election 2000. Remember — the guy who represented Al Gore and democracy in court?). I find him to be of astounding clarity and logic.

Within minutes he had convinced me that:

1. The Martha Stewart case should never have gone to trial. Had she refused to cooperate with investigators, all subsequent communications would've been so thoroughly documented as to leave no doubt as to whether Martha lied and/or misled (or not).

2. It was a mistake to not have Martha testify. Rather than preserve her cool demeanour, she might've fought a little harder.

3. It just doesn't make any sense. Why would a woman of such great resource risk so much for a mere $50,000?

Slate's Guide to the Martha Stewart Trial provided a deliberation of its own that summarizes much of the weirdness:

All of the crimes that Stewart and Bacanovic allegedly committed were a direct result of an investigation into a crime that they didn't commit (criminal insider trading based on a tip about the Erbitux rejection); the bloodthirsty political environment that spawned this indictment was, in its own way, as rabid, crazy, and ephemeral as the boom that preceded it; the only people hurt by Stewart and Bacanovic's alleged crimes—aside from a few bruised egos at the Justice Department—were Stewart and Bacanovic themselves. (Everyone else was hurt by the investigation, prosecution, and publicity surrounding the alleged crimes.) Again, legally, this doesn't excuse anything. It just muddies the moral waters.

It turns out I'm not alone in feeling troubled by the verdict.

What kind of world expends its energy on making an example of Martha Stewart, self-made woman and homemaker extraordinaire (Doesn't she embody what most women aspire to be?), when other people with a little sleight of hand cause thousands to lose their jobs and their life savings.

No more jokes.
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