Thursday, April 3, 2008
For a while there, some of us thought the prosecution of former county Coroner Cyril Wecht was politically motivated. We thought our ambitious US Attorney, Mary Beth Bucahanan, filed trumped-up charges against the promiment Democrat to further her own career. We thought federal judge Arthur Schwab -- a Bush appointee who once worked in the law firm bearing the name of Buchanan's husband --was trying to railroad Wecht with a series of prosecution-friendly rulings. And all of this, we darkly surmised, was part of a shadowy Republican effort to subvert the rule of law, and criminalize political opposition.
Apparently, we were giving these people too much credit.
Earlier today, the jury in the Wecht case announced it was deadlocked on all 41 of the charges Wecht faces. All of them.
So much for our conspiracy theories. If Karl Rove really did have anything to do with this, they would have gotten Wecht for some damn thing or other. Improper use of a postage meter, tearing the tags off a mattress ... some goddamn thing.
Think about how dumb this is. If you walked down the street and accuse a total stranger of 41 things at random, you could be almost sure that: a) they were guilty of at least one of your accusations; and b) that with the awesome powers of the federal government and its trillion-dollar deficits, you could make those charges stick.
But not so for Buchanan and her lieutenants.
Bear in mind: Wecht's team presented no defense. Before the trial began, Schwab put Wecht's attorneys on notice that they couldn't raise questions about the prosecution's motives or conduct. Since casting aspersions on the investigation was at the heart of their defense strategy, Wecht's team chose not to present a defense at all. They rested their case immediately after the prosecution did.
And yet still: The jury couldn't be convinced of a single charge that prosecutors spent weeks making.
This is the courtroom equivalent to playing a game of basketball with a friendly referee, and the other team doesn't show up ... yet you still only manage a tie score.
Apparently, prosecutors will need overtime to avoid being beaten by themselves. The jurors have all said that they remain hopelessly deadlocked on each count, and that no amount of time will change that. Schwab's response: Take some time to think about it. He dismissed the jury for the week, but with instructions to try again after the weekend.
Why bother? At this point, there's every reasons to think prosecutors will refile the charges anyway -- if not as a matter of justice, then as a mater of pride. If this is a conspiracy, it's the judicial equivalent of the CIA's efforts to kill Castro: the sort of thing they still wince about in Bohemian Grove.
Give it up, Ms. Buchanan it's over. One juror in the Wecht case has already been dismissed due to health reasons. The others have lives to get back to. Haven't they suffered enough?
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