Friday, March 09, 2007

What were these lawyers thinking?

One of the things about the Libby trial that is puzzling to Spot is how Juror Number 9 got on the jury in the first place. Juror Number 9, or Denis Collins as he is more conventionally known, could hardly wait until the jury was dismissed to starting talking to the media about the case.

Who is Denis Collins, Spotty, and why is it puzzling to you that he got on the jury?

Well, grasshopper, this is what Maureen Dowd said about Juror Number 9 on Wednesday of this week (behind the NYT firewall, so no useless link):

But let's get back to the media decrying the media, and the incestuous Beltway relationship between journalists and sources. Listening to all the lamentations, I excitedly realized I had a potentially incestuous relationship with a source inside the Beltway.

I went to Nativity grade school in D.C. with Juror No. 9, Denis Collins. I had an unrequited crush on his brother when I was in seventh grade. His dad was my dad's lawyer, and both were Irish immigrants. My brother Kevin coached his brother Kevin in touch football. Our moms were in the Sodality together. His mom once chastised me for chatting up a little boy in church. We started in journalism together, Denis at The Washington Post as a sportswriter and Metro reporter, and me at The Washington Star as a sportswriter and Metro reporter.

Mo also said:

From the moment he stepped out of the courthouse and into the press mob in his green Eddie Bauer jacket, Denis became the unofficial jury spokesman, bouncing from Larry King to Anderson Cooper and "Good Morning America." I thought there still might be enough jury dish for me until I heard him say "Huffington Post blog."

According to Collins, he used to work for Bob Woodward at the Washington Post, was acquainted with Walter Pincus of the Post, and used to be Tim Russert's neighbor. All witnesses. In the case of Woodward and Russert, the relationships were close.

On top of that, Collins wrote a book about the CIA in 2005. If the lawyers—and the court—didn't figure out that Collins was likely to talk and write about his experience on the jury, they were asleep!

Judges, especially in federal court, work hard to keep prospective jurors in the pool by asking them questions—often leading questions: Being run over as a pedestrian and lingering near death for a month won't affect your ability to fairly judge this defendant accused of drunken driving, will it?—to elicit answers that the juror can be fair. It cuts down on the successful challenges for cause. Still, Collins' relationship with multiple witnesses should have disqualified him from serving.

It is also puzzling that one of the lawyers didn't use a peremptory challenge on Collins. These are challenges that each side gets to strike jurors "without cause." Well, that's not entirely true, but please just accept it for now, boys and girls. He was a very risky juror for both sides: having a potentially influential juror with information outside the evidence presented at trial. A member of the journalism fraternity, maybe that would make him pro-prosecution. On the other hand, maybe Bob Woodward was a jerk as a boss and Tim Russert did not keep his trash can clean. Maybe both sides ran out of challenges, and had no choice but to keep Juror Number 9.

And Collins has been talking and writing ever since the jury came back. He has an extensive post at Huffington Post that is probably the outline of the book he will be writing. And what do you suppose is happening now, boys and girls? Ted Wells (the chief defense lawyer) and his sidekicks are scrutinizing transcripts of everything Juror Number 9 said to the media or has written looking for evidence of jury misconduct. You can be sure that at least some of Collins' comments are going to show up in the assignments of error in the motion for a retrial or on appeal.

Collins may in the end turn out to have been a good juror for Scooter. If he contributes to the defendant's case for a new trial or a reversal, he helps keep the ball in the air until George Bush's term nears an end and he has nothing to lose politically by pardoning Scooter.

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