Saturday, December 04, 2010

Comment on -
Felony charge for vet accused of targeting Westboro

Felony charge for vet accused of targeting Westboro -

This is why we have a layered system with "Jury Nullification" as a feature, not a bug, built in. At the State/Local level the police have to temper their actions based on what serves the need to keep a positive respect for the Law in the community. The District Attorney and State Attorney General are usually elected, which can influence them not to pursue such a case. A Grand Jury can return "No True Bill" and refuse to indict and finally the (Petit) Jury can Acquit or be hung by a single holdout. While it is true that politics has on occasion produced needless prosecutions from grandstanding DAs and that any decent DA will say he can get a Grand Jury to indict a ham sandwich these facts can give some cause for hope.

If the State cannot prove that the accused placed his weapons in his car and then stalked the members of the Westboro group, really mostly one extended family, with a prior intent to commit violence then he may get off. That seems to me, and I not a lawyer, to be a tough thing to prove. If he did do the worst he is accused of then we get to see how good a lawyer the Defense has. Loathing for the Westboro group is so common that if they were the accused I think it would be hard to find a place where they could get a fair trial.

The biggest problem that Mr. Newell may face is financial. Prosecutors will use the cost of defending yourself as leverage to force a plea deal. Also juries are often swayed by the tactic of bringing multiple indictments so that the jury will feel induced to convict on something. Federal Prosecutors have fewer restraints with even more opportunities to abuse their powers. Just ask Scooter Libby. Still the fact remains that false convictions are, despite what the movies and TV imply, rare. The overwhelming majority of the people in prison belong there.

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