The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth?

        Convicted felon Scooter Libby was guilty of nothing more than a bad memory, according to his most ardent defenders, who tend to ignore the inconvenient fact that a jury found him guilty on four felony counts for lying to the FBI and the grand jury investigating the outing of former covert agent Valerie Plame.   But, personally, I doubt very much that Libby’s defenders actually believe he was innocent of lying about his conversation with reporters.  I suspect they simply believe that his lies were justified -- that he lied in service of a greater good (protecting the Administration from embarrassment) or that he was the victim of an anti-war witch hunt led by an overly zealous prosecutor that left him no choice but to lie.  

        Putting aside the questionable merits of these arguments (which don’t begin to persuade me,) consider the underlying proposition that lying under oath is sometimes a moral choice or even a moral imperative.  And put aside the easy case (with apologies to Emmanuel Kant): when the Gestapo come to your door, you should lie about the Jew who’s hiding in your basement. 

         Consider this scenerio instead: You are summoned to jury duty and interviewed by prosecutors in a capital case to determine your fitness to serve. The Supreme Court has ruled that people who oppose the death penalty and those who simply have qualms about it but don't oppose it categorically may be disqualified automatically from serving in a capital case. This rule not only helps ensure that defendants convicted of capital crimes will receive the death penalty; it helps ensure convictions, since people who support the death penalty wholeheartedly tend to be more conviction prone.

        You are equivocal about the death penalty (if not clearly opposed to it,) and you believe that this rule is unjust and gives prosecutors unfair advantages in capital cases, increasing the risk of executing the innocent.  Should you conceal these beliefs?  Should you lie to the court and profess unequivocal support for the death penalty to increase your chances of staying on the jury to help ensure a fair trail?  It's a genuine moral dilemma, and I’m not entirely sure how I’d resolve it in real life.  I’m inclined to think that (thanks to the Supreme Court,) the right thing to do in this case is to lie, but I wish it were otherwise. 

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