Most of us who have followed closely the unfolding Jobstown Trial over the last four weeks can’t help but feel a rising optimism about the prospects of a not guilty verdict. Our anxiety about the blatant stacking of the jury was assuaged when the judge threw out the DPP’s application seeking basically a jury composed of hardcore Fine Gael and Labour voters. The resources that #JobstownNotGuilty and others put into exposing the DPP’s disgraceful anti-working class application were resources well spent.
Our next concern was that the politics that underpin the Jobstown trial, that is Labour’s betrayals in government, which brought people out in protest against Joan Burton, would not get an airing. It has to be acknowledged that the Senior Counsel, whose personal politics I cannot vouch for, have followed their brief admirably and brought the class politics into the courtroom when cross examining Joan Burton, Karen O’Connell and Minister Zappone.
Then came the Garda testimony. This phase of the trial has inevitably been more technical than political but again political conclusions about the Guards touched upon in previous blog postings have been reinforced. What has emerged is that in the immediate aftermath of the protest the Gardaí and the government represented by the Labour Party decided here was an opportunity to split the water charges movement and take Paul Murphy off the political field. Once this was decided the ‘investigation’ that followed was about constructing a case that pinned responsibility for alleged offenses principally on Paul Murphy.
The problem for the DPP, the Gardaí and the whole establishment is that the case is crumbling before their eyes. Each Garda witness has been shredded. They have contradicted each other, contradicted themselves but also had their testimony falsified by their own video evidence. The problem for the prosecution side at this point is that the more Gardaí they call to the stand the more damage is being done to their own case. We should anticipate the possible foreshortening of the trial becaue of this.
We cannot see into the minds of the jury but one has a right to be optimistic that if they are statistically representative of wider society in their composition and are fair minded it must be clear to them that the DPP has manifestly failed to prove its case.
However the one remaining act that could salvage the possibility of a conviction is the judge’s direction to the jury before they retire to consider their verdict. The DPP have sought to establish a definition of ‘false imprisonment’ so broad that Joan Burton being delayed for two hours falls into that category. The judge may decide to agree with this interpretation and basically instruct the jury to apply this criteria and effectively put to one side the entire cross examinations as well as the political and technical challenges to the prosecution case.
The point has been made in previous blogs about the role of the Gardaí and any other police force in capitalist society is fundamentally to preserve the status quo. This applies to all branches of the repressive state apparatus including the judiciary who are politically appointed and many of whom have establishment party political histories behind them. This is why for socialists and campaigners fighting a court case is like playing away from home in a football game
However is does not follow that we automatically go into these situations expecting to lose. The dilemma for the establishment is that on the one hand securing convictions against Paul Murphy and the other defendants is highly desirable. Otherwise they would not have put the effort and resources into this case over the last two and a half years.
However they have to balance that objective out with maintaining the appearance of legitimacy i.e the pretence that we have a functioning modern capitalist democracy with an independent judiciary that applies the law fairly. The establishment already blinked on this score when it came to the jury selection.
The mainstream media have done their bit in propping up the legitimacy of the prosecution case over the last few weeks on this by either not giving the trial its due prominence but moreover mostly ignoring the cross examination and resultant discrediting of the case for the prosecution in their reporting.
Despite this a monumental campaigning and social media effort has gone into the #JobstownNotGuilty campaign before and throughout the trial. The helicopter footage alone which blows a hole in the Garda narrative has been viewed over half a million times.
The establishment have to weigh up whether what they might gain from sending the defendants to jail will be outweighed by the further de-legitimising of their own system in the eyes of hundreds of thousands of working class people which in itself would have long term political consequences for the system. The directions the judge gives to the jury we can interpret as the considered view of the establishment on this dilemma.
The only reason they are in the position whereby they have to weigh this up in the first instance is thanks to a campaigning effort the judiciary has probably never come up against before. Let’s keep it up!