Justice? Slide to 'show trials'
The recent trial of Cardinal Pell in Australia can be seen as an example of democracy in action, or of a show trial. The effectiveness of trial by jury at least in this incidence is discussed in this week’s program.

Jeff Schubert, an Australian Visiting Professor at the Higher School of Economics National Research University in Moscow, and a Professor of International Business at Irkutsk National Research Technical University joins the program.

Jeff says that the trial of Cardinal Pell has caused an outrage in Australian society. "The issue seems to be is that many people have decided that the conviction of Pell on child molesting/pedophilia charges is correct in spite of the possibility of what is physically impossible. The jury convicted him, and it would seem on the face of it clear that he is guilty, but some people have raised pretty clear issues about whether these things could have actually occurred. On the other hand, there is a large chorus of people saying that: ‘look, he is being convicted, thereby he is guilty, and you should not raise issues regarding that and in particular you should not question the fact that a jury has convicted him because, in their view, a jury can do no wrong. The case will be up for appeal in the next few months, but in the meantime, there is fairly significant polarization is taking place in society. Many liberals have been very anti-Pell and in support of the conviction. I think because they have anger against the Catholic Church."

The independence of the jury is discussed. "…I do not personally trust a jury unless they are indeed representative of the community, and not isolated," Jeff says. On the subject of liberals' attitudes to this case, Jeff says: "I think we have some hysteria here, of the lynch crowd banging for justice, so it isn't that the liberals are out to do anything nasty or create terrible results, they have decided, I think, that the Catholic Church has done some terrible things and it is clear that it has, that it has covered up some crimes, related to sexuality and children, and I think it is clear that Cardinal Pell has not pursued the issues in terms of cracking down on it. I have no idea if he is guilty or not, my concern is the way that it is being addressed. The lack of balance, and the semi-secret manner."

Jeff sees parallels to this case to Soviet ‘show trials'. "I think the ‘show trials' were really aimed at delivering a message to society. Many of these people in the Stalin show trials confessed. Pell has not confessed but with him I think there is the issue that some people in the legal system, maybe in the police force, want to show, to demonstrate to a broader community that they are concerned about past and present abuses of various pastors in the Catholic Church. They want to signal their virtues, they want to signal to people that they are doing something about it. I suspect that in the Pell case there is a lot of virtual signaling showing certain issues going on….The judge made an announcement on a live video broadcast. I wondered why he did that. Was he trying to promote himself? I have some doubt as regards the whole impartiality of the judge and of the legal system as a whole."

A discussion takes place about cognitive dissonance and the role that plays in preventing people from accusing certain well-known people in society. Jeff says that cognitive dissonance is definitely an issue, but it can also be applied for members of the jury….A member of the jury might be thinking, well, he must be guilty, bearing in mind what we know about the Catholic Church. So cognitive dissonance can be used in many different ways."

Jeff stresses that he believes that maximum exposure to what is going on inside a court case is necessary so that the rest of society can participate, and this may also help to reduce bias.

We'd love to get your feedback at radio@sputniknews.com

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