Thursday, March 17, 2005

California -- Land of the Wacky

Over the years, California has become known as the land of wacky juries. It's a reputation well-earned where too many good cases ran off the rails when overly sympathetic liberals combined with the best defense attorneys money can buy can resulted in some pretty shocking verdicts. Don't get me wrong. I believe in great defense attorneys, and certainly, we've seen some prosecutions fail to make their cases, but between OJ and the Twinkie Defense, celebrity defense lawyers have been making Californians look bad for a long time.

But it looks like things may be turning around. Maybe prosecutors have gotten better at proving their cases, or maybe it's forensics, or maybe jury pools have gotten smarter, but high profile convictions like Scott Peterson's make you wonder if California juries aren't sending a message: You can't get off in California (at least, you know, where the law is concerned.)

Ironically, when I wrote this, the Blake verdict hadn't come in yet. So, I diligently waited until 2:30 PST knowing that my theory could be off. From the transcripts I saw of the Blake case, it wasn't exactly clear the prosecution had proven their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Their primary witness was a little shaky. I had a suspicion this one would go either way. And it did.

So, I want to amend my theory and say the legal system is only better in California for juries returning fair verdicts. If guilt isn't proven, or if the evidence of guilt of heavy, juries seem to be listening and playing fairly. I wonder if this signals a true shift in the tide of celebrity cases. Certainly on the East Coast in financial cases there seems to be no fear of sending the rich to jail. Let's hope we're seeing a change in the tide in California. Of course, Mesereau and Geragos could use a reason to raise their rates.

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