Jurors in Albany City Court last week had a dilemma on their hands. Is a 75-gram bag of marijuana greater than or less than two ounces?
According to this story in today’s Albany Times-Union, the six jurors on the case used the measurements on the bottom of a box of crackers and a jar of peanuts to calculate the conversion factor between ounces and grams.
“We were stumped, and I said, ‘Wait a minute, maybe we can figure this out from these food packages,’ ” No. 3 said. “The crackers listed 1 pound and in parentheses was the number of grams and it was some high mid-400 number. The peanut container, however, said 10 ounces, 28.3 grams per ounce, “so that’s easy math,” he said.
It’s great that the jurors took the time to get it right. If the jurors had collectively decided that the math was too difficult and elected to convict on the lower charge out of laziness, I’d be seething as I write this post.
On the other hand, it’s unfortunate that of the six jurors in the room, only one had the mathematical thought required to realize he could calculate the conversion factor between grams and ounces.
And what about the court? The insistence of No. 3 that he could use the ten-ounce number but not the 400+-gram number because the smaller number was “easy math” implies that they didn’t even have a calculator to work with. Everyone should be able to do this on paper, but — no calculator? Come on.
What irks me the most about this story is that it exists in the first place. Apparently now you can get an article in the region’s most prominent newspaper for successfully performing a unit conversion. That this story was published only continues to subtly reinforce the message that becoming fluent in mathematics is a Herculean feat that only clever people like juror No. 3 can attain.