Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Buz had predicted hung jury, but now..............

Over the last several months Buz has been pondering the upcoming trial of our beautiful, fit mayor, Madam Sheila Dixon.
Buz had a strong hunch: ain't no Baltimore City jury gonna convict her for nuthin'. (Please forgive the street lingo, sometimes a habit is hard to break). The reason: it only takes one juror to hold out and say that they are not going to vote to convict. They can give any reason to why they have reasonable doubt and/or why they don't believe one or more of the state's witnesses. Perhaps in a perfect world, we wish it weren't so, but it is. Thus I predicted a hung jury. And if the state retries her, another hung jury.

So, as part of my research, I pestered 4 judges (one retired) in my travels and asked them whether or not they agreed with me. Three out of 4 agreed that Buz is quite likely correct in his assessment of a likely outcome. One judge took the Warren Brown approach: that juries do not like stealing from the poor. While we agree with that in general, and that is possible, this is not a typical case. This is a mayor who is very popular in the community, and many people think that, other than this ethical taint, she is doing a good job and appoints good department heads (except all those folks on the Internet sites who want her burned alive at the stake or crucified; oops, wait a minute, isn't that Frank Reid's take? Oh, never mind).

One of my interviewees did go a step further though, based on his experience: he said that if one or two strong African American males step up and argue for conviction, they could convince the rest of the jury to go along. He has seen this happen in several cases. We're not sure that would happen in this case.

One high Baltimore executive interviewed in buz's gym said that he might not vote for conviction, and probably a lot of white people wouldn't either. He said that he would weigh the evidence, but, at the end of the day, he might say: yeah, what she did was wrong, but I'm not going to find her guilty of a crime here. She's suffered enough humiliation.

The beautiful woman who cuts Buz's hair in her Hampden shop said, for example, this is bullshit; they've spent 10 times the money chasing after her than what they said she stole.

But now, a new revelation: the state lost all courage and is refusing to call the affable Mr. Lipscomb to the stand. I'm sure I know why: the defense was just licking it's chops ready to cross-examine him and destroy him on the stand. Can you imagine the questions they would ask? And, even more, can you imagine the image he and his answers would represent in the mind of jurors? Um, Mr. Lipscomb, how many LLCs are you involved with? Why so many?, etc.etc.
So, now, the jury is left with what? Your consultant (who doesn't do jury consulting) can just imagine the jury thinking: is that all there was? Some gift cards left at city hall, the our lady mayor might have used one or more of? But she never acknowledged them or ever thanked him for them--even though she was later with him at a small party. And why is a developer, who wears a beard, and a suit coat with no tie, and builds fancy, schmancy condos out of old grain silos (costing zillions of $$) leaving gift cards for the mayor? Like, what sort of favors does he want? Like, why didn't he say: sure, I'll give gift cards to Goodwill, Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, and Beans & Bread. Nah, I'll drop em off at city hall with the mayor's name on em; they'll, you know, get where they belong.
Now, Buz really, really thinks, not only hung jury, but a good chance of outright acquittal.


Anonymous said...

Hey buz, how do I turn in an unregistered handgun I have in my posession without getting in trouble?

buzoncrime said...

Not exactly sure what you mean "unregistered", since there's plenty of guns out there that were purchased either before Maryland's law went into effect, as far as background checks on purchasers goes, or were brought here from other states.
Other than the fact that the serial number of the gun is noted when someone makes a legitimate purchase at a gun store, handguns per se don't have to be "registered". You have to have a permit to carry one on your person on the street.
So, then the answer turns on how you came into possession of the gun: did you buy it from someone "on the street", did you find it, did someone give it to you, etc.

If you are someone with no criminal issues, and found the gun, say, in your grandmother's attic, you could call an officer to your house and turn in into him/her, or take it unloaded in the trunk of your car to a police station.

If you have a problematic background, or you are worried the gun was used in a crime, perhaps you should unload it and throw it into a pond, or lake or river after wiping off your DNA.

Alternatively, you could have a little 80-year-old lady who goes to church take it to a police station, and say she found it in her alley.

Or, of course, you could put it into a box along with some gift cards from the Cop Shop, and drop it off at city hall, addressed to the mayor, and thank her for her love of the Pink Flamingo and John Waters.

John said...

I'm going to take the long odds and go with a guilty verdict.

From a prosecutorial standpoint the hardest part of getting a conviction would be putting the stolen gift cards in her possession. Apparently through the Target employees testimony they have done just that. I haven't seen said employee, so I don't know how convincing and credible they were.

The defense will of course just then say that she accidentally had a few left over. By proving that she used them to make purchases should cook her. I hope.

Tactically not calling Lipscomb while having him on the witness list was a brilliant move. The amount of time the defense probably wasted preparing for him... The downside you gave him a sweetheart deal for cooperation and strategically you may pay a hefty price on appeal if the Court of Special Appeals determines that introducing so much irrelevant information was prejudicial.

Finally, I'm too lazy to research the point, but I'm throwing it out there now, if she is by a miracle found guilty, is she immediately ejected? If she's appeals, is she still out? Finally, if she's found guilty and the judge gives her a PBJ, what effect if any does that have?

buzoncrime said...

John---All of your questions in your last paragraph: I was wondering them myself, and, like you, I don't know the answers. My modest experience with following legal-beagle issues is that, if she appeals, she will be allowed (legally) to continue as mayor until the appeal comes to a close. [Heh, heh, I don't think this city council is going to impeach her!]

On the issue of PBJ: my gut says that no retired Howard County judge is going to take it upon himself to negate/overrule the decision of 12 Baltimore citizens to find their mayor guilty. But your point is well taken: if he did do that, where does Ms. Dixon stand as mayor, under Maryland law, with a PBJ. Of course, i always tell clients that a PBJ is not a conviction. My guess is she would continue as mayor.

On your earlier point about all the evidence about Lipscomb not being used after being thrown out there for several days: this, I think, gives the defense perfect grounds to appeal. They, as they argued after the state rested, will claim that the jury's thought processes were tainted irrevocably by the constant mention of Lipscomb. Now, the judge wouldn't go for a mistrial, but the Court of Special Appeals may see things differently.

And, of course, we'll all be paying for the legal fees for all of this. Buz doesn't begrudge her a lawyer, but doesn't think we should pay for 6 of them!

John said...

Well the unbelievable happened. Now the plethora of hypotheticals available is amazing. Will she appeal? Probably. Will she reach a deal on the remaining counts from the first trial, as well as the perjury counts? Possibly. Will she be removed by office? The real question is by who? It's going to be very interesting. I'm glad they convicted and it's about time we bring some fresh blood in.

One thing that was discussed today was, do you anticipate her dream legal team will return? If she won the city was potentially going to pay for it. Now, who knows?

buzoncrime said...

The chances of Madam Mayor's dream team of lawyer's not getting a new trial with at least one of their allegations are pretty slim. Especially if her appeal gets to the Court of Appeals, which is pretty defendant-oriented.
So, it looks like Mr. Weiner's firm is viewing Ms. Dixon as their new version of the 401K. And all of us, city residents, are going to be paying for it.
My guess is , win or lose, her lawyers are going to ask the city to pay the Mayor's legal expenses.

In any case, the whole case shows how difficult it is to get a conviction in this town---especially if you've got more than 3 lawyers working for you.