Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Is a Rich Man Always Guilty?

M. Gerald Schwartzbach, appellate lawyer for Robert Blake, filed a lengthy appellant opening brief with the California 2nd District Court of Appeals this morning on Blake’s behalf. It was a long time coming. The civil verdict was delivered November 2005, but Blake had to wait until the verdict was signed by Judge David M. Schacter before the appeal process could start. Schacter, due to health problems, was unable to sign the order until February 2006. In April 2006, Schwartzbach filed a motion for retrial based on juror misconduct and evidentiary objections. Schacter refused to grant a retrial, and gave no reasons for his decision.

In the following 11 months, Schwartzbach requested two extensions. He missed the last deadline, and the appeal would have been dismissed on March 5, 2007 had he not filed the brief today.

As stated previously in this blog, civil jurors perjured, coerced, and bribed before awarding the Bakley estate $30 million dollars, an award that, according to an Associated Press article, “mimicked” the OJ Simpson award. In fact, the Bakley family’s attorney, Eric Dubin, reinforced the Simpson and Jackson verdicts in the jurors’ minds. During the questioning of Dianne Mattson, Dubin asked if she knew her attorney had dealings with the Jackson family. During questioning of a Vitello’s waiter, Chris O'Brien, Dubin made a joke asking O'Brien if he had ever worked for Mezzaluna (the place Nicole Simpson dined before her murder). In closing arguments, Dubin made reference to “the duffle bag in the back of the car.”

It was apparent from court papers and reports that the jury held Blake to a different standard when they announced they wanted to send a message to “celebrities and rich people.”

But what will the Appeals court do? Only 30 percent or less of appeals are granted. An appeal must be argued on whether there were errors during the trial and whether those errors were sufficient to affect the outcome. There can be no doubt that jurors disobeyed the rules of the court. One juror didn’t disclose her daughter was convicted of murder and another juror used the Bible to justify his vote. They all admitted to talking about the case outside deliberations and there was some evidence that at least one juror discussed the case with her spouse. An alternate juror participated in the deliberations. All are grounds for overturning a verdict.

The “gotcha” in this is whether the Appeals court will decide whether the infractions affected the verdict. The decision of three justices is therefore subjective, and, like everyone else who didn’t sit in the Blake courtrooms, they heard “facts” over the past six years presented by a bias news media. A media that was given facts by dishonest police officers and unethical prosecutors. A media whose opinions were led by Nancy Grace and others who never set foot inside the courtroom.

The Appeals Court justices are not immune to public opinion. Will they be able to put aside what most people “think” is the truth? Will they be able to forget Blake as a celebrity and look at him as a man who might have been denied his Constitutional right to a fair trial? Those justices will have a tough job, a job just as tough as the criminal trial jurors. They were called “stupid” by Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley who turned his back on evidence. They were chastised by the media and prosecutor Shellie Samuels, who said upon losing her case, that the jurors reached their decision because they watched too much CSI. They were “rebuffed” by civil jurors according to the LA Times, a newspaper that didn’t bother to print a recent Associated Press article about LAPD misconduct and wrongdoing in this case.

Will the Appellate court be able to uphold the law without prejudice? It is certain that the inaccurate facts about the case will be spewing out of the mouths of opinion journalists as the oral argument date gets closer and closer.

But Blake does have one ace in his court – Schwartzbach. He believes in the Constitution and he believes in his client’s innocence. Two beliefs that when he is in the courtroom are always heard loud and clear.

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