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If you move it, I’ll lose it

Tom Boyd

Can Kobe Bryant get a fair trial in Eagle County?You bet.First of all, it’s our right as a county to be able to try crimes that happen on our turf. This is a basic right, and a valuable part of the genius behind the United States legal system.And it seems to me that if we can’t find 12 unbiased, intelligent people who will honestly and fairly evaluate the evidence according to the laws of the land, then we’re in big trouble.There have been arguments that the jury pool has been tainted by the intense daily media coverage provided by local and national outlets. There have been arguments that this county is somehow racist, or biased in favor of the girl, or uneducated, or otherwise ignorant.I have no such fear.This valley has been my base camp my entire life, but I have traveled much and seen a large part of the country. I lived in Atlanta for three years, and down there everyone is classified by social strata first (race, age, sex, occupation, etc), and by heart and character later.Around here, we’re not like that.Here’s an example: I did a story on Robert Aikens and Verbatim Booksellers a few weeks ago. Only this past week, when we were looking around for African-Americans to interview for our race-oriented cover story, did I realize that Aikens is black.Race never crossed my mind even once. It simply doesn’t occur to me. That’s how we are around here.As for the media coverage, I have this to say: people who are selected on a jury will enter a state of mind that transcends the world of public opinion. They will consider what they hear in the courtroom to be supreme to that which they read in the paper of see on television. When people are given responsibility, I find they step up to their duty and do a good job.Also, the daily printing of fractions of facts and pieces of rumor aren’t taken seriously by the good people of this county. Most people know that the only just and fair way to settle this is in the court of law, not the court of public opinion.The side effects of the case are what real locals are talking about, and very profound questions are coming out of this.For example: How do we define rape and sexual assault in the valley? How big of a problem is sexual assault in Eagle County? How big of an issue is race in the valley?And what about this: Vail Resorts is on a perpetual marketing binge, selling the town’s bright side with a brand and a smile, and the real estate industry is continually trying to make everything seem perfect, peaceful, and “world class.”But when something goes wrong, when someone is raped, or someone becomes depressed, or domestic violence spreads people become afraid to deal with it because they don’t want to tarnish the valley’s life-is-perfect image. The community in general doesn’t want to be bothered with difficult questions because we’d rather ignore them, forget it, and just go skiing.By doing so we allow our dark side to brood, and grow, and become more powerful. We facilitate the expansion of our social problems. That’s why The Vail Trail has reported on the high rate of clinical depression here in the valley, and the surprising number of sexual assaults, and the ongoing circulation of highly-addictive drugs like crystal methamphetamines. As hard as it is to swallow, these are things we think people should know.And people are paying attention.So if this community becomes the pool for the Bryant jury, I believe it will for the most part be well-informed, open-minded, and well-prepared to take on the difficult duty of trying this case where it belongs: in the courtrooms of the Eagle County Justice Center.Be part of the conversation and contact Tom Boyd at (970) 390-1585 or tboyd@vailtrail.com.


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