Friday, October 23, 2009

Tidbits from two criminal trials

There's a murder trial going on in Knoxville right now. It involves a gang of young black males who kidnapped and raped a young white couple who were out on a date in early 2007. This case has made headlines all over Tennessee and to a certain extent nationally. There is an odd development that is taking place in this murder trial though and it involves the jurors being allowed to directly ask the individual witnesses questions when they are on the stand. I had never heard of this being done before in any criminal trial. But after asking around its my understanding that Tennessee is one of the few states that allows this to happen upon each judge's discretion. Hopefully the appeals court won't use this as an excuse years from now to throw out what is likely going to be a death sentence for most of the defendents in this gruesome case. Using rare legal practices in court is fine but Im not so sure a trial of this stature is an appropriate place to start.

Down in the heart of Bear Bryant country at the Federal Courthouse in Tuscaloosa, Al the first week of testimony in the corruption trial of Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford wrapped up for the weekend. Its not looking good for Mayor Langford. There was testimony this week from lobbyist Al Lapierre and former Alabama Democratic Party Chairman Bill Blount who both cut plea deals with the prosecution back in August to testify against Langford. They both testified that they basically bribed Mayor Langford with numerous shopping trips to New York City and close to a hundred thousand dollars in exchange for Mayor Langford to reward county contracts to Mr Blount. The Langford defense team seems to be employing the simplistic strategy by basically saying that the Mayor was just too gullible. It doesnt seem like a winning strategy to me but you never can tell what a jury will buy. My guess is the jury will have the case by late next week.

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