This week is a busy week in hot button legal cases across the country.
Trayvon Martin Case- George Zimmerman was able to make the $150,000.00 bail set for him by raising only $15,000 to pay a bail bondsman to post his bond. He was released in the early morning hours of Monday, April 23, 2012. He is allowed to leave the state but authorities released him with an ankle bracelet. Authorities will be able to monitor his whereabouts as he prepares for trial. His arraignment date is May 29.
Reverse Trayvon Martin Case- Today in Baltimore, a case known now as the reverse Trayvon Martin case goes on trial with 2 Jewish men charged with beating a 15 year old black teen in a Jewish neighborhood of Baltimore in November, 2010. They spotted the teen in their neighborhood while they were in a car, exited and allegedly chanted “you don’t belong here” as they beat him, according to court and other documents. One brother was a neighborhood watch or patrol person.
The two white men were originally charged with felony assault charges. But newly elected Baltimore City State’s Attorney, Greg Bernstein, dropped the charges to misdemeanor assault as his first major decision upon taking office in January, 2011. He had won election in November, 2010 against former long term black State’s Attorney, Patricia Jessamy, upon vows to aggressively fight crime. The victim’s father says the charges should have remained felony assault for the jury to render a decision. The victim sustained a broken wrist and head injuries. The 2 brothers claim self- defense. Jury selections are under way today. And a jury is expected to be majority African American. The maximum sentence, if convicted is 13 years for all misdemeanor charges.
Jennifer Hudson’s Family Murder Trial- The former brother in law of Jennifer Hudson goes on trial today for the killing 4 years ago of Hudson’s mother, brother and nephew in Chicago. If convicted, he will spend the rest of his life in jail. The circumstantial case will not be an easy one for prosecutors as there are no eyewitness or DNA. The prosecution has gunshot residue found on the defendant’s car steering wheel.
Jennifer Hudson was the first witness to testify after opening statements. She broke down in tears as she described her sister’s volatile relationship with the defendant. It was a smart and stunning move by the prosecution to start with Hudson’s testimony who now will be able to sit through the entire trial, with eyes of the jury on her, remembering her pain and loss.
John Edwards Trial– In a federal court room in Greensboro, North Carolina , in a case of sex, money and lies, prosecutors and defense attorneys are set to begin opening arguments in the trial of John Edwards for alleged violations of campaign finance laws to divert $925,000 in campaign funds to his mistress Rielle Hunter. Edwards, a former Democratic presidential candidate, and trial lawyer denies any wrong doing and wants his day in court.
Edwards had been offered a plea deal of minimum jail time and keeping his law license. He declined the offer. We will see soon if Edwards made a good deal or bad deal in declining the offer. Rolling the dice is what Edwards did for a living as a trial attorney. As a trial lawyer, Edwards had faith in jurors. The only difference now is he is the one who stands to go to jail and not his client, if convicted. He is no longer the attorney arguing to the jury. It is not known yet if Edwards will testify in his own behalf. Edwards, if convicted, faces up to 30 years in jail plus monetary fines. The trial is expected to last 6 weeks.
Roger Clemens Trial- Roger Clemens goes on trial again in federal court in Washington, DC after a judge granted a mistrial after 2 days of the last trial due to prosecutorial mistakes that tainted the trial. Clemens is charged with lying under oath to Congress about taking steroids. “One of the hurdles the government has to overcome is answering, ‘Why the heck are we involved in this type of investigation?’ ” U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton said last week, out of earshot of the potential jurors. The prosecution has 5 prosecutors trying the case–up from 2 from his previous trial. It sounds like an uphill battle for the federal prosecutors who have spent millions to obtain a conviction.
For those who say the legal process doesn’t work, many should take the time to attend some parts of an actual trial to become familiar with and understand how the judicial system works.
Debbie Hines is a lawyer, former prosecutor and legal /political commentator appearing in national and local media including the Michael Eric Dyson Show, NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates, RT TV, CBC- Canadian TV, NPR, XM Sirius radio, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Black Enterprise among others. She founded LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics. She also writes for the Huffington Post.