Tuesday, September 24, 2013

What is the difference, exactly?

Here are a couple of commentaries from last week about the overturned Danziger verdict I thought were worth mentioning.  First, there is this from two of the jurors who sat on the case.  They sound pretty adamant that the "prosecutorial misconduct" cited by Judge Englehardt didn't have anything to do with the jury's decision to convict. 
The New Orleans Advocate tried to contact each of the 12 jurors in the Danziger case. Farlough and Robin were the only ones who agreed to be interviewed. Both said they knew nothing about any online comments — by Perricone, Mann or anyone else. They made their decision, as the judge ordered them to, based on what they heard in the courtroom.

“I think it’s a folly, all of this supposed posting of things on NOLA.com,” Robin said. “We would not have been selected as jurors if we didn’t have the integrity to follow the court’s order. We rendered the verdict that we thought was fair and proper. To now reverse that verdict seems a bit ludicrous.”
The editorial board at the Washington Post agreed this weekend.
Judge Engelhardt is right that the online comments were egregious, unjustifiable, unprofessional abuses of authority on the part of the lawyers. The two prosecutors in New Orleans left their jobs in disgrace. The Justice Department lawyer, whose role was revealed in the judge’s decision, may face disciplinary action. Conceivably, they could be disbarred.

However, his conclusion that the online postings created a “prejudicial, poisonous atmosphere” that justified throwing out the convictions is a huge stretch. By that logic, overturning the convictions might also be justified by the TV show “Treme,” which began airing on HBO 14 months before the officers’ trial and depicts the New Orleans police as corrupt, brutal and violent. It’s a safe bet that more New Orleanians have seen “Treme” than the prosecutors’ online postings.
Please don't get me started about the egregious, unjustifiable, poisonous abuse of the viewing audience that is HBO's Treme. The Post is wrong to assume that anybody watches that anymore anyway.

A better comparison, if we're talking about actions that might prejudice a jury, would be between the relatively obscure online comments and Jim Letten's penchant for grandstanding press conferences that get blasted all over the media every time he indicted somebody. If a jury can be tainted by anonymous sniping deep within the bowels of  a newspaper's online comments section, surely this bluster must have some prejudicial effect.

1 comment:

mominem said...

I've never understood the big deal about the comments buried in the cesspool of Nola.com comments. I never read the comments. I still don't. I did read the news stories.

Looking at them after the fact, the comments were never the worst comments nor were they particularly offensive. As far as I can tell they never released any confidential information. While the prosecutors probably shouldn't made them I also wonder whether they still didn't have First Amendment right to speak on these issue anonymously.