The not guilty verdicts handed down to the Waihopai spy-base accused surprised me. I thought the case was desperately unwinnable for the accused.
But that was because I was thinking like a lawyer. Had a judge been deciding on the guilt or innocence of the accused I suspect the result would have been very different. Of course, jury trials don't get decided by lawyers or judges.
And that isn't a criticism of the jury system. The lawyer may shake his head in wonder, but juries exist to apply a "common touch" to the law. The jury represents the views of the community. The accused trio obviously convinced twelve members of the community that what they did was justified, and good on them for doing so.
However, the case raises some interesting questions. Will it empower protest groups to break the law? Or is this really just a one-off case whose facts were unique?
I expect many willl now call for the entire jury system to be abolished. Just like after the Bain case. We're a vindictive lot. We only ever complain when someone walks away.