30 March 2011
I'm no killjoy. I love the idea that Willie Nelson is going to have to sing the judge's favourite song of his, live in the courtroom. in order to reduce his punishment for marijuana possession. But it is, well, a bit dangerous too.
Still, it's America, and when it comes to legal matters they are, er, a law unto themselves. That's why they let television cameras into court from the outset of high-profile cases, potentially corrupting future jurors in the process. The death penalty, an outrageous thing for any nation to have in the 21st century, exists by accident of zipcode. Serious charges can be negotiated downwards without full consideration of the evidence or the feelings of the victim.
The handy thing for Willie Nelson is that he is an old man now and therefore the senior legal people in the USA will have grown up with his music. I very much doubt a judge in the UK would find him or herself presiding over a case involving their own musical hero; firstly as our judges still are older than most of our earlier music stars; and secondly because we have a courtesy of "declaring an interest" here, in which judges and magistrates pull out of cases if they have personal affinity or acquaintance with the defendant.
Beyond that, however, if a judge had decided to let Mick Jagger off his drugs charge in the 60s - for which he was briefly jailed, let us not forget - in return for a quick rendition of The Last Time and a wriggle of those hips - then our papers would have announced the end of civilisation. That famous Butterfly On A Wheel editorial would never have been written and the prejudiced way society viewed our rock stars as somehow more culpable than ordinary drug-takers would never have changed.
You dread to think what would have happened if Gary Glitter's nasty misdemeanours had been committed in the States. "Go on Mr Gadd, give us a burst of I Love You Love Me Love and we'll restrict you to a fine and a ban on having photo software on your computer."