We, The Jury, Find The Defendant: Awesome!

August 10, 2011


Here in the US we have a very little known right called Jury Nullification.  The right is this: a jury has the right to declare someone accused of a crime not guilty, even if they believe he did commit the crime.  Not only can they do so, they don’t have to justify why.  The Judge can do a spit-take and shriek, “WhhhhaaAAAAT??  He confessed!  There’s DNA evidence!  It’s on film!  He blogged about it!  How can you possibly find him not guilty?”  And the jury can simply say “None of your beeswax, you honor” (the founding fathers were very explicit on the use of the term “beeswax”).

The reasoning is to protect people against unjust laws, to allow for justified crimes and, fundamentally, to ensure that the people always, ultimately, have power over the state, and never the other way around.

This power has hardly ever been used, but if it were ever to have been, it would likely have been in the case of DB Cooper.  Not because he broke an unjust law (I think we can mostly agree that laws against stealing money and hijacking planes are reasonable), but simply because his crime was really, really cool.

Odds are this assertion provokes one of two reactions: Emphatic nodding, or “Who?”

If you’re in the “who?” camp: in 1971 someone identifying himself as DB Cooper, or Dan Cooper, stole $200,000, then, in the middle of a flight, parachuted out of the 727 with the money and was never heard from again.  In part because it was 1971 and a pretty anti-establishment time, and in part because the only thing that could make the crime better would be his saying something witty and winking at the flight attendant before he jumped, Cooper was immediately celebrated as some sort of folk hero.  Bear in mind, he didn’t give the money to the poor, he didn’t abscond with money that was about to be given to a crooked politician, he just took it.  But he took it without hurting anyone, he jumped out of an airplane and he vanished.  And everyone loves a super-cool crime.

Left: the suspect believed to be DB Cooper. FBI sketch on the right. Look at him! He's even wearing a rat-pack skinny tie!!

I’m thinking of this because the FBI announced the other day that they believe they’ve finally identified Cooper.

For a long time the FBI stated that they believed that Cooper died in the parachuting (it was late November, poor weather, and he was jumping from a 727), but now it appears he survived, and died 10 years ago.

If this is the right person, his real name was LD Cooper, which begs the question… Really?  That’s the best alias you could come up with?  And FBI guys, come on!  “Hey, Roger, I’ve got a lead.  This guy lives in the area, he’s the right physical description and his name’s LD Cooper.”  “Um, no.  See?  LD. Our guy called himself DB.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I want to get back to trying to figure out which of the Daily Planet’s employees is actually Superman.”

Here’s the super cool part if you’re me (which I am).  He lived here in my area!  He’s buried, apparently, about a mile and a half from my house!  Which means I could have met DB Cooper!  I know!

It also means:

He’s buried about a mile and a half from here, which is kind of like we’re neighbors.

Pictured here: Me (left), DB Cooper (right)

Which is kind of like knowing each other.

Which is kind of like being friends.

Which is kind of like inspiring each other.

Which is kind of like being the inspiration for one of history’s greatest heists.

Which is kind of like being part of one of history’s greatest heists.

Which is kind of like being DB Cooper!

I’m DB Cooper!!!

(Note to my readers who are part of law enforcement: I am not DB Cooper)

Part of me doesn’t want to know the details of what really happened.  There’s no chance that the reality is as great as the myth – both the robbery itself, and the getting away with it.  The myth is seamless, confident – it ends with someone living his life with a little wink at what he’d pulled off.
Details are emerging that the truth is, of course, less glamorous than the myth, so I’m really trying to hold on to the myth.  In fact, I’ve decided to imagine that he did say something and wink before jumping (despite the fact that the vacuum would have sucked the flight attendant in to the sky with him).  I’m thinking along the lines of maybe:

“Guess this is my stop.” Or

“Sorry I can’t join you for the rest of the flight, but I’ve got to make a sizable deposit before the bank closes.” Or

“Time to cash out.” Or

“I must apologize for taking up so much of your time.  So, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll show my self out.” Or maybe

“Are you all familiar with the right of jury nullification?  Just in case?  Because I’m totally about to jump out of this 727.”

But I’m open for suggestions.

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About The Byronic Man

Recently voted "The Best Humor Site in America That I, Personally, Write," The Byronic Man is sometimes fiction, but sometimes autobiography. And sometimes cultural criticism. Oh, and occasionally reviews. Okay, it's all those different things, but always humorous. Except on the occasions that it's not. Ah, geez. Look, it's a lot of things, okay? You might like it, is the point.

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9 Comments on “We, The Jury, Find The Defendant: Awesome!”

  1. Rayme Wells @ A Clean Surface Says:

    Compare $200,000 in 1971 with $200,000 now. This is what boggles my mind. I don’t think anyone would jump out of an airplane for that amount now.


  2. gojulesgo Says:

    This is such an interesting story! The whole thing was hilarious, but I have to tell you my funny bone was especially tickled by: “Here’s the super cool part if you’re me (which I am).”

    I kind of like to think he had a martini glass in his hand as he jumped.


  3. madtante Says:

    This *is* cool! I was born in 71, so my whole life, I heard these folk stories (including BS ones like he *did* give to the poor — that was before this crime but he used to do it, so maybe that’s what he was going to do with this money, right?) and kept wondering if the whole tale was like taking a city kid snipe hunting.

    At some point, I saw part of a poorly-made film ( http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082958/ ) in a rental shop, so I reckoned maybe it was real. That’s as far as my interest went until your post. I love that you lived next door to the sasquatch!


    • Byron MacLymont Says:

      I’ve never seen the movie, but I’ve seen the cover many times. I can believe Robert Duvall is in it!

      It is a great story, though. What did they say in “Liberty Valence”? “When the myth becomes fact, print the myth.”


  4. Remediator Says:

    You already have written the best lines, so I’ve got nothing there, but I did find an online calculator that says that $ 200,000 in 1971 equals $ 1.08 M today, which is about how much Sarah Palin now makes in a month.


  5. Blogdramedy Says:

    I just knew you’d be famous for something one day. 🙂


  6. Barton Clements Says:

    There was an article featuring LD’s niece and her upcoming book claiming LD is the real DB in which the claim was put forth that he did say, as he jumped, “No!” in response to the pilot’s asking over the intercom, “Is everything all right back there?” I thought that was verging on cool, inn that he was consistent in his mode of operation. He just went ahead and did it, all the while being low key and outrageous at the same time. I think it was indeed cool that he never had to brag to anyone that he pulled it off. I sounds as if he was pretty banged up when he got back to Sisters and used the excuse he had been in an auto accident. My guess is that he surprised himself and lay low for the rest of his life. I’m with you about choosing the myth.


  7. mydatingprescription Says:

    You’re neighbors. You should host a DB block party.


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