Wanted: Twelve Peers For Bill Gates' Jury
By Stephen M. Lawton
battles like the one Microsoft is waging are spectacular they give
industry pundits like me the opportunity to spout off with techno-legal
babble without ever having to sit through the laborious court proceedings
or even read the court's transcripts. It's great we can be experts
without any of the distraction of real research.
But what if we used some of today's
technology to make the court case a little more accessible. In fact, there
are several steps that could have been taken to make the Microsoft case
the social event of the season, not unlike the O.J. case.
This was driven home to me recently
as I prepared to conduct my own socially responsible act: jury duty. Why,
for example, did Bill Gates not ask for a jury trial? Of course, this
was not a criminal trial not exactly. But that's not the point.
Imagine what luminaries a jury of his peers would include. Naturally,
no jury of rich tech moguls would be complete without Oracle's Larry Ellison.
And who could possibly leave off billionaire Warren Buffet? Certainly,
no one could be more of a peer to Gates than Microsoft co-founder Paul
Allen, but would that set up a conflict of interest?
That sets up an interesting legal
argument: Does Gates get a jury of his peers (incredibly rich entrepreneurs
from technology and related businesses) or is he forced to have a jury
of regular people those of us who work for a living? You certainly
couldn't call the average working Joe or Jane a peer of the richest man
in the world, now could you?
After those first three seats are
filled, who would be next? Do we need to start tapping the European and
Asian markets to find enough megabillionaires? Should we just pluck a
few Silicon Valley-types, even if they don't have $70 billion or so? Where
do we start?
Let's assume for a moment that we
were able to fill out the jury box, though I doubt we could dig up that
many megabillionaires for such a long trial. Would they all want to go
to Washington to sit in the box? Surely not.
Then the question becomes how to actually
conduct the trial. The answer: Videoconferencing for the jury box. We
already have the technology to record the court's proceedings and distribute
them worldwide. Simply set up little cameras on each of the dozen jurors'
PCs (plus the alternate billionaires) and feed them into a system at the
courthouse. The jurors' faces could be displayed on a dozen monitors strategically
situated in the jury box That way, Ellison could be virtually anywhere
when rendering his judgment on archenemy Gates.
What if we were to extend the jury
process to include more than just a jury of Gates' peers? The court, to
ensure full cooperation of the world at large (also known as: Microsoft's
customer base) could allow users to press "G" for guilty and
"N" for not guilty. Is this fair? Obviously not, but that doesn't
matter. Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson could have abundant video testimonials
to determine if indeed that damage existed.
Ain't technology grand?