Wednesday, July 16, 2008

If For Nothing But to Take a Stand

On June 9, M. Gerald Schwartzbach, appellate attorney for Robert Blake, filed a petition for a civil case review with the California Supreme Court. The filing was in response to the California 2nd District Court of Appeals’ denial of Blake’s appeal for a mistrial based on juror misconduct and its subsequent denial of a rehearing on the matter.

On July 16, just 16 days after receiving the Appellate court record, the Supreme Court denied without comment Blake’s petition for review.

In that petition and the previous rehearing petition, Schwartzbach charged that the California Appellate Court disregarded the law when it reduced the jury award from $30 million to $15 million.

The Appellate Court, in its unpublished opinion, said that it found no “prejudical” juror misconduct against Blake, then contradicted itself when it ruled that jurors were influenced by “passion or prejudice” when they awarded such a large amount. And with the logic of the Queen of Hearts, the Court also said that “sending a message to celebrities and rich people” was an acceptable part of the jury’s thought process when determining the award.

Schwartzbach argued that the California Supreme Court directs that non-economic damages (in this case, the loss of society, comfort, care and protection) be tethered to economic loss.

In its opinion, the Appellate Court did consider the testimony that showed Bonny Lee Bakley had no legal income, had little contact with her children, and that the source of her money came from scams and illegal activities. In civil court, Eric Dubin, plaintiff's attorney, showed no evidence that Bakley was attempting to change her lifestyle. Since Bakley obtained no money legally, the economic loss to Bakley's children was zero. The Court in its opinion ignored this consideration when they halved the award. So, in essence, the Court ruled that Bakley, in the rest of her lifetime, would have stolen $15 million from her victims -- a sad message from justices sworn to uphold the law for every man.

Schwartzbach returned pro bono to handle Blake's appeal, an action that is almost unheard of in civil cases. He said he returned because he believed in Blake's innocence. Believing in justice and defending the innocent are part of Schwartzbach's mettle. He is not a man who will be shaken easily by a defeat. He once spent 16 years working to free a convicted man.

There are more battles to come. If we are destined to lose them, in our hearts we will know that what we stood for was right.

And someday a child named Rose may find the path we took, and know that her father was an innocent man.

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At 9:23 PM, Blogger hoopa said...

You are an amazing writer, JHills


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