Aaron Hernandez’s Slow Jury

AAron smilingI have followed the Aaron Hernandez trial on Twitter at the hash mark #aaronhernandez. Three groups of people seem to be using it: those who know little about the trial but ask good questions; those who pose as knowledgeable but range from smart to pretenders; and the ham- and-eggers who waste everyone’s time with dumb comments.

The jurors are in their seventh day of deliberation having spent near 35 hours going over the multitude of evidence that was dropped upon them in the case. The jury watchers are getting impatient. One, a reporter, is suggesting that the judge light a fire under them by giving them a charge called the Tuey/Rodriguez telling them to get on with it since they are as well equipped to decide the issue as any group of 12 who will ever be assembled to do so.

The big problem with that suggestion is that there is no evidence such a charge is needed. That only should be given when the jury is deadlocked, that is, where the vote gets stuck at a specific number such as 9 to 3 and no one has moved from his or her position for a while. We learn that is the case when the jury advises the judge that they are at loggerheads.

Here, except for a note requesting a smoking break, there has been no word from the jury for about four and a half days of deliberation. That suggests the jurors are not deadlocked. What it does suggest is not known.

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Deb Goldberg’s Bum Rap:

Goldberg1There’s something sinister in the story surrounding the recent attack on newly elected Treasurer Deb Goldberg. By the way I don’t know the women and did not support her. I voted for Martha and Maura so I expect I followed the Democratic ticket and gave her my  vote.

I get the sense that the story that recently came out against her is a shot across her bow by the Boston Globe. It is telling her that if she does not play ball with it then she’ll be in for more unfavorable articles. I say that because reading the story quickly casts her in a negative light but reading it closely shows it is much ado about nothing. It has no newsworthiness yet received front page coverage.

Perhaps Goldberg has shown that she’s quite independent and marches to the beat of her own drummer and not to the tune of that newspaper. It’s a quality we need in our politicians but not one the media is particularly accepting of.

In its editorial the paper picked up on the story in its paper by Frank Philips about Goldberg’s interaction with an employee who worked for a small Newton-based nonprofit Adoptions With Love where Goldberg is the president. The employee, Hannah Fisher, blames Goldberg for her losing her job even though everyone agrees she was looking to leave that job in any event. Philips wrote Ms. Goldberg got “entangled . . . in an awkward conflict: using her position as the state treasurer-elect with access to state employment documents to benefit a private nonprofit agency she heads.”

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Hernandez: The 7 to 5 Jury

AAron smilingHernandez’s jury has been out since last Tuesday. It received the case after listening to the closing arguments by counsel and the judge instructing it on the law. The judge’s instructions took an 81 plus minutes which seems to be quite lengthy given that the case involved only one defendant and the issues quite straightforward.

The jury’s composition is seven women and five men; a white middle-age woman with dark hair is the foreperson of the jury. She is the one who will set the stage on how the deliberations are to take place. She was appointed by the judge.

Wednesday and to mid-morning Thursday the jury asked questions relating to possession of the gun and the date when Hernandez possessed the .22 ammunition. Unusual questions considering that it was deciding whether he committed a murder and these seemed minor matters in the big picture. The rest of Thursday, four hours Friday, and six hours Monday, minus a smoking break, the deliberations continued and except for the request for the smoking break nothing has been heard back from the jury.

It would seem that whatever confusion existed as shown by the early questions over the law as set out in the judge’s instructions has been clarified and the jurors are down to considering the facts. The lawyers who tried the case are feeling the tensions of this lengthy deliberations. The early indications pointed to a favorable result for Hernandez but now it is anyone’s guess as to what is happening. Any question now from the jury would be welcome by the lawyers as a cool glass of water to a parched man since it would give an indication to them of what was happening. Each time a court officer moves toward them, or a door opens, or some unusual movement occurs around them their stomachs jump.

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On The Aaron Hernandez Jury:

AAron smilingThe reports from the courtroom of the trial of Aaron Hernandez where the evidence has concluded and the jury has been deliberating since last Tuesday is that when the jurors are not in the room Hernandez is in an upbeat mood, smiling and rather enjoying himself. I would guess that he feels the jury’s delay in coming down with a verdict augurs good news especially after he heard the questions the jury asked the judge on the second and third day of deliberations.

These related to the date of the charge of possession of ammunition and one involving “constructive possession,” that is, if one of the guys with Hernandez had the gun could Hernandez still be charged with its possession. The judge rightly defined the law regarding it telling the jury it boils down to whether he controlled its use.

One of Hernandez’s attorneys goal was to get the gun, a .45  caliber Glock, out of Hernandez’s hands. That question may have indicated that they had succeeded in doing that at least in the mind of one juror. At that point on Thursday you’d have to believe things in the jury room were going Hernandez’s way . His actions showed he and his attorneys felt that. I did read that the prosecutors were looked decidedly unhappy. I would guess that is how I would have looked were I prosecuting the case.

I originally thought this meant the jury decided to talk about the minor charges first before getting to the issue of the murder. The alternative, it had already decided the murder seemed unlikely. This became clearer after the question was answered on Thursday. For the rest of that day and the following day (which the jurors only deliberated until 1:00 pm) nothing was heard from the jury. It now seems nothing has been decided.

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Hernandez Update:

AAron smilingThe days started out (I’m following the tweets) with the judge having the prosecutors, defense counsel, Hernandez and two jurors (one at a time) at the side bar for a conference. It is because two jurors reported that a television news truck followed them as they went on their way home last night. I assume the television reporters were trying to identify the jurors taking a note of their license plates so that they could quickly get a “scoop” after the trial on the jury deliberations.

Judge seems upset. Apparently threatens the TV station involved that it will be barred from the courtroom, not that this means much. There’s little left to see and the TV station can follow the live feed.

Judge suggests somehow a felony of juror harassment may be involved although that does not seem to be the case. Some talk of mistrial comes up but that seems far-fetched just because of this incident. Someone did tweet that a mistrial would be good because another judge would then handle the case. Another tweeted that the punishment for the TV reporter following the jurors would be to spend one night with the judge.

It seems to me the judge is way overreacting. There’s no law against trying to identify who the jurors are. It seems to me it is in the TV station’s right to do this as long as it does not approach the juror. How was the juror affected by the TV van? Was the juror surprised that the trial was receiving TV coverage? If it affected juror the juror should be removed. That is the remedy.

Now judge is threatening the TV station and demanding it appear in the courtroom. Someone should tell the judge to calm down. If the TV station did something wrong there’s plenty of time to address it.

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Hernandez: An Uneasy Sleep

AAron smilingAaron’s Hernandez’s jury’s question had to have made the prosecutors toss and turn in their sleep, if they slept at all. As best I can tell it asked the judge according to this report: “questions to clarify two weapon and ammunition possession charges Hernandez faces in addition to the murder charge. Hernandez is charged with illegally possessing a .45-caliber handgun and .22-caliber ammunition.”

Another report has it that the jury asked “if the principle of “constructive possession,” one of the elements of both charges, means that Hernandez intended to use the firearm.” Judge tells the jurors that means he must have some type of control over it.

The nightmare the prosecutors had last night goes back to the decision to charge Hernandez with those minor charges in the first place. I never could figure out why prosecutors add in the minor charges in a murder or other serious felony case. The idea is to convict the guy or gal of the offense you believe was committed; throwing in the junk can give the jury a way out or confuse it so that it no longer focuses on what is important. A prosecutor should asked “will I be happy if the jury gives the defendant a pass on the main charge and convicts on the minor charges?”  

In this case it will be little comfort to anyone except Hernandez and the defense team if he is found guilty of possession of ammunition and not guilty of murder. The initial blunder in bringing this charge is the reason the jury asked the question. It should have been avoided.

But it is worse than that, much worse. It seems to suggest, and when I say this you must remember the way juries work is often inscrutable, that one or some jurors are having doubts that Hernandez did the shooting. If that’s the case, much of the prosecutors compelling evidence is being ignored.

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Why Can’t The United States Be More Like Israel?

DSC_0040-1I wrote the other day how the Wall Street Journal complained that Obama was not helping Israel and the Sunni nations in their fight against Bashar al-Assad the leader of Syria. That got me wondering. What is it that Israel is doing in the fight to remove Assad.

It certainly hasn’t put any of its ground forces into the fight. It borders right up against Syria in fact it occupies what used to be a part of Syria called the Golan Heights until 1967 when it was occupied by Israel’s military. It could easily pour its forces over into Syria without facing any opposition and be extremely effective in the fight against Assad, and also in the fight against the Islamic State (IS,ISIS). The question is why isn’t it doing it.

It’s not that its military is that weak. Here’s what a recent article stated: Jane’s Information Group, a British publishing company specializing in military, aerospace and transportation topics, published its yearly rankings of the world militaries, and the results regarding the Middle East are not surprising. The Israel Defense Forces was ranked is the mightiest military power in the region. 

It then went on: “1. Israel – with a $15 billion defense budget, 176,500 active frontline personnel, 870 tanks, 680 aircraft, Israel has space assets, advanced fighter jets, high-tech armed drones, and reportedly, nuclear weapons. Its air force has incredibly high entry and training standards. Thanks to Israel’s small size, the military can rapidly mobilize its reserves on relatively short notice.”

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One and Dumb

(1) out of stepI did not watch one game of the March Madness. Nor did I watch any college basketball games during the year.  As I noted  previously, the term college basketball at the March Madness level is an oxymoron. The players on the teams that go to the top of the heap aren’t college players. The freshman players who won the Big Tournament for Duke giving its underpaid coach, Coach K, who reported earns 9 million a year (that can’t be true, is it? Bill Belichick only gets a measly 7.5 million) another feather in his cap, have as much to do with Duke as my cousin Roger to whom if you said the word Duke would immediately think “he want’s to duke it out” and would respond, “OK – put your dukes up.

Here’s what one writer for the LA Times said: “Duke played with freshmen stars such as Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones, who are expected to bolt for the NBA.” How are they Duke University basketball players when none who went to Duke intend to graduate from it; or to stay for more than a year, perhaps two at the most? They are more akin to Minor League baseball players who are looking for a chance to join the Majors; in the case of these “college” basketball players their University is the NBA.

I don’t mind the fans cheering for one team over another. Usually there’s a little bit of green ventured on the outcome. I knew some people who could not watch a game unless they had a wager on it. They might as well be at the race track betting on trotters; (by the way did you ever notice the guys driving the carts (are they jockeys?) behind the trotters. They go by the tote board just before the start of the race to take a look at the latest odds. I’ve always put that in the same league as professional wrestling but that never detracted from the sport (is it a sport?). You learn to bet not on the best trotter but on the most devious driver.)

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It Wasn’t Just John Connolly!

Javert 1The Wall Street Journal the bastion of conservative opinion in the United States has taken up the torch for Scooter Libby. In an editorial opinion on Tuesday, April 7, “The Libby Injustice” and in an op-ed “The False Evidence against Scooter Libby” it accuses Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzpatrick of refusing to provide exculpatory evidence to Libby’s lawyers and misleading Judith Miller a reporter for the New York Times in bringing about false testimony that he wanted.

Peter Berkowitz who wrote the op-ed noted that Fitzgerald stated Libby harmed national security by throwing sand in the eyes of federal investigators. Berkowitz went on: “Yet it was Mr. Fitzgerald who threw sand in the eyes of Ms. Miller and the American people, and in the gears of the U.S. legal system. As special counsel he placed his quest for a conviction above the search for truth and the pursuit of justice.”

The editorial opinion however was the one that most reminded me of the John Connolly case. It noted: “The episode also teaches lessons about the methods of modern prosecutors . . . .  Mr. Fitzgerald became a Javert who wanted to get Vice President Dick Cheney for something, and he zeroed in on Mr. Libby . .. as his vehicle. . . . Mr. Fitzgerald twice told Mr. Libby’s lawyer that he would drop all charges against Mr. Libby’s (sic) if the chief of staff turned state’s evidence on Mr. Cheney. Mr. Libby had no evidence to trade, and Mr. Fitzgerald then set out to ruin Mr. Libby.“

I’ve written in my book how I talked to John Connolly (no relation) during his trial which I attended. I knew him professionally having met him a half-dozen times. I was at his trial hoping to find out something on another matter that had bothered me. Sitting in court having spent my career in the business I had the feeling there was another game being played. I sensed the trial was not about Connolly but was about someone else.

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John O’Brien’s Federal Tormentors:

Woman cryingI’ve shown how the Boston U.S. attorney will act like Pavlov’s dog in following anything that the Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team recommends. This was no more evident than in the Probation Department case in which the Globe demanded the U.S. attorney in Boston indict someone and sure enough patronage became a criminal act.

On May 23, 2010, the Globe did a spotlight report on Patronage in the Probation Department.  Immediately after that report O’Brien was suspended from his job and in November of that year the Supreme Judicial Court based on the newspaper report ordered Judge Robert Mulligan to remove him from the job.

Now O’Brien got in trouble because he hired people based on recommendations by judges and legislators. One sure way to get the job was to have the Speaker of the Massachusetts House ask him to consider a candidate. Back in those days that would have been Sal DiMasi (2004 to 2009), presently serving time in federal prison, and the present Speaker Robert A. DeLeo who has held that position since 2009. The Globe is hoping DeLeo gets indicted so that he will be the 4th Speaker in a row to fall at the hands of the federals.

O’Brien when commissioner didn’t want to publicize that some of the jobs were being given out based upon recommendation by people who were referring candidates to him. He set up a system of doing it that tried to maintain its secrecy. The U.S. attorney in Boston turned that act of doing it secretly into a racketeering charge against him and two of his associates. It was a long reach to find a hook to make patronage into a crime. It had to be done because the pressure on the U.S. attorney to do that.

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