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A Third Verdict
October 14, 2012 12:34 PM   Subscribe

Former Pennsylvania senator Arlen Specter, who passed away this morning, is most recently known for his switch from the GOP to the Democratic Party in 2010. Specter is also distinguished for his vote in the Clinton impeachment trial: "not proven," a choice available to Scottish jurors when they believe insufficient evidence has been presented to prove the defendant's guilt.

Proponents of the not proven verdict argue a two-verdict system limits juries' speech and tarnishes the acquittal in public eyes. Opponents argue the verdict is poorly understood and results in different outcomes.
posted by Apropos of Something (58 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'd argue that he's noted for his roles in the Anita Hill and Robert Bork hearings.

I'm not sure if I want to leave a dot.
posted by lalex at 12:40 PM on October 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


. I certainly didn't always agree with old snarlin' Arlen but he was his own man in a time when few are.
posted by octothorpe at 12:40 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Arlen Specter first came to national prominence after his grilling of Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas' supreme court nomination hearings. on youtube

Robert Reich tweeted: "Years after Thomas hearing, Specter felt badly about how he had treated Anita Hill, and sought my help in arranging a reconciliation. "

He may have been the opposition for many of us hard core lefties, but you always felt he had a soul.
posted by readery at 12:43 PM on October 14, 2012 [8 favorites]


Not to mention his expertise in Newtonian physics as it works in Texas and his innovative ballistics research
posted by C.A.S. at 12:43 PM on October 14, 2012 [9 favorites]


Yes, let's also not forget that Arlen Specter was a member of the Warren Commission.
posted by The White Hat at 12:48 PM on October 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


Remember when Arlen Spector was the one of the most hardline right-wingers in the Senate? Way back when? Shows just how far right we've moved.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:12 PM on October 14, 2012 [50 favorites]


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posted by JoeXIII007 at 1:24 PM on October 14, 2012


felt he had a soul.

And that soul is like others have observed about machines. Twisted and Evil.

I leave it to the reader to determine if you start that way or leave politics that way.
posted by rough ashlar at 1:25 PM on October 14, 2012


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posted by Renoroc at 1:49 PM on October 14, 2012


I've always liked not proven conceptually as a verdict option, but I'm also one of those wild-eyed crazy folks who believes in jury nullification and thinks that the refusal to allow people to issue certain verdicts prejudices the jury process (e.g., refusing to empanel people who refuse to vote for capital punishment renders capital trials less fair), so take my feelings with a grain of salt.

As for Arlen Specter, my feelings about him are tainted by his work on the Ira Einhorn case, which doesn't inspire me to think well of him. I wish his survivors peace and solace.
posted by immlass at 1:49 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't see how Spector was ever far-right...his voting record was pretty down the middle, certainly in the context of US politics.

He gets a . from this centrist.
posted by aerotive at 1:51 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by NedKoppel at 1:52 PM on October 14, 2012


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posted by iamkimiam at 1:57 PM on October 14, 2012


I met Senator Specter a few times in social settings, he was a good friend to some close members of my family. I disagreed with a lot of his positions, but will always remember him as a gracious, humble guy. RIP.

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posted by mkultra at 2:06 PM on October 14, 2012


Like lalex, I can not leave a dot due to his shameful questioning of Anita Hill.
posted by ericb at 2:07 PM on October 14, 2012


Every couple of years, Arlen Specter would show up in our rural Western Pennsylvania county (population all of 40,000) and hold a town meeting. I can't remember another US Senator doing that, Republican or Democrat.

And when we needed our beautiful little river to be included in the National Wild and Scenic River system, Snarlin' Arlen introduced the necessary resolution.

I voted against him more than once, and voted for Sestak over Specter in the Democratic primary, but I always respected Specter.

My conservative county voted for that slimeball Toomey over Sestak overwhelmingly, but Toomey has yet to show his face around here.
posted by tommyD at 2:09 PM on October 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Arlen Specter at open-mic night, December 2011.
posted by merelyglib at 2:15 PM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


BitterOldPunk, you took the words right out of my mouth... when his party gave signals they were about to kick him to the curb, that was one of the first signs to me that we were entering a whole new scary playing field. To echo your point about how far we've come - many of the news reports on his death are calling him a moderate! Holy cow.

I certainly loathed the man for decades but came to have a grudging respect because at least he had principles, even if I disagreed with them. And he paid a price for having them. He was a mixed bag.

In the small world department, Specter first was defeated in his '76 senate run by H. John Heinz, who was a senator until he was killed in a helicopter crash. His widow Teresa later married John Kerry.
posted by madamjujujive at 2:18 PM on October 14, 2012 [9 favorites]


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posted by Cash4Lead at 2:24 PM on October 14, 2012


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posted by aryma at 2:30 PM on October 14, 2012


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posted by Foosnark at 2:38 PM on October 14, 2012


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posted by shakespeherian at 2:40 PM on October 14, 2012


I was digging around and find that he has written a book entitled Life Among the Cannibals: A Political Career, a Tea Party Uprising, and the End of Governing As We Know It.

It sounds worth reading - he talks about it in these two clips
Specter: The Tea Party is Another Cannibal Gang

Arlen Specter - Life Among the Cannibals

Arlen Specter facing tea partiers at a Town Hall
posted by madamjujujive at 2:45 PM on October 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


That whole "not proven" thing was such a weird piece of grandstanding. In US law if the prosecution has "not proven" it's case, then the proper verdict to come to is "not guilty." Specter seemed to be trying to split the most infinitesimal of hairs for no conceivable purpose.
posted by yoink at 2:50 PM on October 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Libertarians certainly loved him, at least the one crazy Libertarian girl who was friends with my roommate in Philly and stayed with us for a week. She was quite annoying.
posted by item at 2:59 PM on October 14, 2012


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posted by drezdn at 3:16 PM on October 14, 2012


  •>________ •
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• >_________•^
posted by tzikeh at 3:20 PM on October 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


I would never have including him on my Christmas card list, but I also never wished him specific ill. Which is more than I can say for a good % of the current crop of assholes.
posted by edgeways at 3:40 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I find the use of the present tense in the first sentence of an obituary FPP to be jarring.
posted by spitbull at 3:44 PM on October 14, 2012


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posted by jquinby at 3:50 PM on October 14, 2012


I worked for Sen. Specter for a year-and-a-half, as his advisor on climate, energy, and the environment, from just after his party conversion till the end of his term (July 2009-December 2010).

I traveled with him to all those town hall meetings in the insane summer of 2009, and watch him stand face to face the borderline personalities who waited hours on line to yell at him.

He worked hard to get a climate bill passed, and spent a good deal of time asking questions of me, and taking the time to learn, in a sincere and humble fashion.

He was one of the few Senators that practiced the lost art of compromise, of hearing all sides, and of treating a hearing like it mattered--he could make a witness squirm like few I've ever seen.

Sure, he had his reputation, and by the time I started working for him, he was nearly 80, he had had cancer and heart surgery and brain surgery--he had mellowed. He was no longer mean, "Snarlin'", but he was tough. He pushed to you think clearly and speak articulately.

He was one of the great institutionalists, who disliked the abuse of the Senate by folks like Coburn and DeMint; and by Supreme Court nominees.

He was hugely decent to pariahs--reaching out to both Bill Clinton and Larry Craig when no one would touch them.

He was a pioneer in environmental litigation, and a staunch foe of racial discrimination.

To me, he was good, funny, warm (for him), and it was a privilege to work with him. Yes, there is plenty to dislike about him, but the Senate would be much better off if there were more Arlen Specters. He was an iconoclast, a man who saw a lot of history, and took his shots at making some of his own. He had the respect of his staff. He will be missed.

Thanks, Boss.
posted by oneironaut at 4:10 PM on October 14, 2012 [129 favorites]


Specter was the kind of Republican I could hold a grudging respect for. As noted by others, he understood the necessity of compromise and the danger of letting the polarization get too far out of hand. He had principles. Not principles I agree with, in the main, but principles nonetheless. The modern crop of Republicans seems to have no principles of their own whatsoever. They just follow along with whatever Norquist and the noise machine are interested in.

So yes, despite his mistakes, despite his being in disagreement with much of what I believe in, I still think the world is worse off without him.

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posted by wierdo at 4:17 PM on October 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


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posted by newdaddy at 4:21 PM on October 14, 2012


oneironaut, that is an excellent tribute - thanks for telling us your experience with Sen. Specter - it sounds like he was a most worthwhile person to know and to work with.
posted by madamjujujive at 4:28 PM on October 14, 2012


"not proven," a choice available to Scottish jurors when they believe insufficient evidence has been presented to prove the defendant's guilt.

Well, the American equivalent would seem to be "not guilty." We don't recognize the Scottish distinction between "not guilty" and "not proven." All that "not guilty" means is that there's insufficient evidence of guilt.
posted by John Cohen at 4:48 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Not Proven" leaves open the possibility of trying the accused again at a later date if further evidence comes to light. It would be a good option to have, IMO.
It seems tailor-made for cases like O. J. Simpson.
posted by rocket88 at 4:54 PM on October 14, 2012


"Not Proven" leaves open the possibility of trying the accused again at a later date if further evidence comes to light.

I do not believe that this is the case in Scotland. There is no practical difference, as far as I know, between being a verdict of "not guilty" and a verdict of "not proven."
posted by yoink at 5:23 PM on October 14, 2012


spitbull: "I find the use of the present tense in the first sentence of an obituary FPP to be jarring.
"

Not for nothing, but it was actually intended more as a not proven post than an obituary post.
posted by Apropos of Something at 5:34 PM on October 14, 2012


he showed his true colors when he switched to the Dems. No better than Lieberman, opportunist to the end of his political career. may have been a good man, despicable politician.
posted by Max Power at 5:39 PM on October 14, 2012


The function of the jury in our legal system is to decide whether the prosecution proved their case. Most people don't seem to know that it is not the jury's job to decide if the defendant is guilty.

The two choices for the jury are "guilty" which actually means "the prosecution proved their case" and "not guilty" which means the prosecution did not do so. In other words, "not guilty" is the same as "not proven". That's what "not guilty" means in the US jury system.

"not guilty" doesn't mean that the jury thinks the defendant is innocent.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:40 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


may have been a good man, despicable politician.

Because if there's one thing we need more of in our politicians, it's hardline party loyalty!
posted by mek at 5:52 PM on October 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


He was a thoughtful man, who had the courage to have his own views, represent his constituency, and know the difference between the two. Decent man, great politician.

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posted by nickrussell at 6:16 PM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


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posted by mek at 6:28 PM on October 14, 2012


but I'm also one of those wild-eyed crazy folks who believes in jury nullification and thinks that the refusal to allow people to issue certain verdicts prejudices the jury process (e.g., refusing to empanel people who refuse to vote for capital punishment renders capital trials less fair), so take my feelings with a grain of salt.

The fact that a juror would refuse to issue a certain verdict would render the jury process unfair. We can't have jurors who would walk in with their mind made up. That's what the trial is for. A trial isn't fair if the people judging it aren't willing to go where the evidence goes.

Which ties in with the passing of Sen. Spector. Personal feelings aside, it's hard to deny that he had public service and the best interests of the nation at heart. I respect a vociferous defender of his ideas, as long as he is equally respectful of opposing viewpoints. I think Spector, on balance did. Rest in peace.
posted by gjc at 7:48 PM on October 14, 2012


[Y'all know where MetaTalk is, folks. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 7:56 PM on October 14, 2012


Max Power: "he showed his true colors when he switched to the Dems. No better than Lieberman, opportunist to the end of his political career."

You see opportunism, I see recognition that his former party had gone so far off the deep end that there was no place for him any more and proof that the remaining halfway sane party is the big tent we need until we can get the necessary reforms made to keep the extremists from taking over government again.
posted by wierdo at 9:26 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


>

(If I hit shift and period, I get something that is not a dot. Since this person does not deserve a dot, the choice is fitting.)
posted by Yakuman at 10:25 PM on October 14, 2012


When I was at the 2009 American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting, I had to suffer through a "speech" by Specter - a survivor of Hodgkins lymphoma, no less - accepting an "award" from the association. You'd think he'd talk about the fact that cancer research helped save his life. Or about the value of cancer research to society. Nope.

Not only was it clear that he barely had 2 synapses left thinking about science, the subtext of his remarks was basically, "I played politics and got money for the NIH. It was all my doing. You should donate to my campaign if you want more money for science." You can listen to the nauseating pandering on behalf of the AACR and Specter's uninformative (IMHO) comments made to thousands of cancer researchers here. It was the most painful 15 minutes of "I did this" and "When I was appointed to that" self-linking that I had to endure at this meeting. No offense intended, desuetude.
posted by scblackman at 10:25 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


the subtext of his remarks was basically, "I played politics and got money for the NIH. It was all my doing. You should donate to my campaign if you want more money for science."

Senator Arlen Specter: Backing Medical Research and Battling Lymphoma (NIH)

MedlinePlus: Is there an accomplishment you are most proud of in this area of your public service?
Specter: When I came to the Senate in 1981, NIH spending totaled $3.6 billion. Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat, and I, a Republican, have worked very hard to increase funding to the National Institutes of Health. Now NIH receives $29 billion to fund its life-saving research. The investment in NIH has spawned revolutionary advances in our knowledge and treatment for cancer, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, mental illnesses, diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, ALS, and many diseases. It is clear that Congress' commitment to the NIH is paying off. It is also clear to me that we need to do more.


As a former resident of Pennsylvania, I never liked the permanent black eye Arlen Specter gave our state over social issues.

But whatever his legacy in that regard, he pushed for and received very substantial increases in public health research funding — and he did it well before getting sick. In terms of his overall career, he has done more to promote the mission of public health science than perhaps even the sitting president.

People should know this. Scientists who work in life sciences and get grant funding should know this and be grateful they had someone in their corner. Because, these days, when you have your science committees staffed with dangerous Christian extremists, science needs all the rational, sane, supportive friends it can get.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:12 PM on October 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


RIP Ira Einhorn's lawyer.
posted by Gringos Without Borders at 1:59 AM on October 15, 2012


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posted by xorry at 5:49 AM on October 15, 2012


Also deceased this morning, Peatsy Hollings, wife of Senator Fritz Hollings.
posted by octobersurprise at 5:58 AM on October 15, 2012


A trial isn't fair if the people judging it aren't willing to go where the evidence goes.

Some people don't think the evidence ever goes to the state terminating a life; I don't hold that position myself but I respect it. I grew up in Harris County, Texas and lived there most of my life, and I've seen the way DAs use capital murder charges to get hanging juries. I consider that a more significant threat to the integrity of the judicial process and to justice than the idea that somebody might not get a turn in the death chamber. YMMV.
posted by immlass at 6:48 AM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


tzikeh:
"  •>________ •
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^
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• >_________•
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you're missing some Consummate V's and a Beefy Arm from your drawing of Trogdor.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 6:53 AM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's not necessarily the questioning of Anita Hill that made me furious at him - although he crossed the line, everyone who testifies is subject to the crucible of tough cross-examination - but that he accused her of perjury. That's just disgusting.

I don't get why someone would vote against Robert Bork and for Clarence Thomas. They basically have the same judicial philosophy; if anything, Thomas is more extreme.

Also, the party switch was just opportunistic. He was not a Democrat. If anything, he was pretty sharply to the right of Snowe, Collins and Scott Brown.
posted by moammargaret at 7:06 AM on October 15, 2012


About Peatsy Hollings, the wife of South Carolina senator Fritz Hollings - can anyone imagine today a senator's wife being described in this way?:

As a senator's wife, she advocated sex education in the public schools and was pro-choice on abortion even as she was raised in the Roman Catholic Church.

She was a longtime supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment and health care reform but also proudly reveled in her Lowcountry roots, listing crab and shrimp as her favorite dishes.


This swing to the right my country has gone through is so pervasive and all encompassing. It amazes me constantly.
posted by readery at 8:11 AM on October 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


he showed his true colors when he switched to the Dems.

A shocking revelation. If only there was some event in Specter's early political career that might have hinted at such flexibility in allegiance.
posted by zamboni at 10:32 AM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Robert Reich tweeted: "Years after Thomas hearing, Specter felt badly about how he had treated Anita Hill, and sought my help in arranging a reconciliation. "

Did Arlen Specter ever apologize to Anita Hill? Robert Reich says Specter sought "reconciliation." Gloria Steinem reveals she urged him to say sorry -- but did he?
posted by homunculus at 7:22 PM on October 15, 2012


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