After fighting for months to get the district court removed from the Cyril Wecht case, defense counsel finally have some meat to that bone. As set out below, the government has begun interviewing jurors from the case, much to the dismay of some of the jurors. The authorizing official for that contact, my bet is, was the district court judge who presided at trial.
Wecht’s extremely capable counsel today filed a motion to require the disclosure of how the government obtained those names.
A little background is needed here, for Immediately after Judge Schwab declared a mistrial in the case last Tuesday, the government inexplicably announced that it was going to retry Mr. Wecht. The government needs to face facts – the stuff of this case, is not the stuff of which federal criminal cases are made. (See this post here.)
The government’s immediate announcement of its intentions after the mistrial was declared only lends credence to former Attorney General and now Wecht criminal counsel, Richard Thornburg’s allegation that this case is politically motivated.
Following the mistrial, there started what can only be described as a bizarre set of happenings:
- Judge Schwab queried AUSA Stephen Stallings on whether the government’s future plans for the case included a retrial. Stallings replied, “We do, and we will.”
- Judge Schwab immediately set the retrial for May 27. Several days later the government announced that it would proceed to retrial on all remaining counts in the indictment. Let’s be clear here – the black eye the Department of Justice incurred under the disgraceful bumbling of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was an embarrassment to our country, but that branch of our government is supposed to be motivated to do justice in its cases, not pursue some petty political vendetta. Long ago, the Supreme Court stated what have come to be the guiding light for the prosecutor’s duty: “The United States Attorney is the representative not of an ordinary party to a controversy, but of a sovereignty whose obligation to govern impartially is as compelling as its obligation to govern at all; and whose interest, therefore, in a criminal prosecution is not that it shall win a case, but that justice shall be done.” Berger v. United States, 295 U.S. 78, 88 (1935).
- But, within days of the mistrial, the FBI was out interviewing jurors in the case, which, quite frankly, is embarrassing. Many of the jurors were said to be surprised and upset by what they thought were heavy handed tactics.
- Now, the defense has moved to dismiss the case on double jeopardy grounds, and has requested to find out how the FBI obtained the juror names.
My guess, the public pressure will force main justice to examine the propriety of wasting more government resources on this case.
The U.S. Attorneys Office in the Western District of Pennslyvania should be ashamed. They brought a petty case. They spent considerable, precious resources pursing the petty case. The jury was, apparently, split heavily in favor of acquittal. And, the government, apparently, can’t take their thrashing like adults.
Hey guys – your case stinks. Stop wasting time and money and move on to some real crime.
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