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.
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.
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.