Saturday, June 07, 2008


Good News and Bad News

First the bad news. A Seattle jury acquitted Naveed Haq of one count and could not agree on any of the other 15 or so. Haq is accused of murder and attempted murder, et al. for driving from his home in Eastern Washington, practicing his shooting skills on the way, to the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle where he shot 6 women, killing one and seriously wounding 5. He is a Palestinian who was upset with how the Israeli Hezbollah war in Lebanon was going. He is also bipolar. But the jury let us know that the insanity defense was not their problem--the issue of premeditation was, that is, whether Haq thought out the plan to kill people before the pulled the trigger again and again. The jury also couldn't decide (and it was not a lone holdout) if when he fired his gun into defenseless women at close range he actually meant to kill them. To paraphrase Ripley in Aliens, have Seattle IQs dropped significantly recently?

Unlike a lot of attorneys with over 20 years of courtroom lawyering, I still have a lot of faith in juries. I believe they are usually serious about the task and smart enough to do the job. There have been a few exceptions, on the West Coast particularly, which make you despair about our collective ability to have the wool pulled over our eyes, but generally they do good work.

The good news is that the retrial after a hung jury generally goes in the prosecution's favor. It is usually an issue overlooked by the prosecution which hangs up a jury and the prosecutors learn from the mistakes made and do a better job the second time. The defense, having pulled the wool, or the rabbit out of the hat, the first trial, rarely is able to invest another issue with the same appeal to the jury's lenient side and goes down the second time. Retrial in 6 months. We'll see how the second trial goes.


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