When a judge becomes “co-counsel for the [filthy rich] defense”

trumpspace
Fig. 1. Donald Trump is depicted in a space suit colored in an earth camouflage style. I doubt, though the question did occur to me, that were he indeed to appear in uniform, this would make him a legitimate military target. Still, the thought of letting the air out of that gas bag surely has to tempt. Via Ozy, fair use.


Updates

  1. Originally published, August 11, 8:03 am.
  2. August 13, 7:03 am:
  3. August 13, 3:30 pm:
  4. August 13, 10:45 pm:
    • Worked some more on the commentary under James Comey.
  5. August 14, 6:37 am:
    • More than 50 percent of Lake County has burned since 2012.[2] The graphic (figure 2) is jaw-dropping. (Mendocino Complex)

James Comey

So, okay, it’s been a couple days, but Elie Mystal at Above The Law at least helps me to know that yes, the judge really is being weird in Robert Mueller’s prosecution of Paul Manafort.[3] And now, a couple days after that, Jonathan Turley weighs in, with yet more criticism.[4] They’re lawyers and I’m not, but each of us has our own criticisms.

As to other points in the above, verbal communication is, of course, only a part of the sum of communication. When I was in that field (my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees are in Communication), the word was that over half—maybe even 90 percent—of communication is nonverbal and it’s pretty unreasonable to think that the folks who invented open courtroom trials weren’t well aware that nonverbal communication is a factor.

The point of having the accused confront their accuser in front of a jury is in large part about enabling them to see facial reactions to judge who is more credible. There’s nothing radical here. This is simply how it works. But Judge T. S. Ellis, III, had demanded counsel constrain their facial reactions.

Some of this is a judgment call. I can certainly understand Ellis not wanting a trial to be a contest to see who can make the greatest face of disbelief. And there is an issue in that nonverbal expressions cannot easily be rendered in court transcripts. But the sense I’m gathering is that Ellis went well beyond that; hence my question as to whether he would prefer proceedings be conducted in writing.

Further, Ellis sought to limit the prosecution’s presentation of evidence of Manafort’s lavish lifestyle, which was allegedly funded at least in part by through the means for which Manafort has been charged. Facially, this seems valid: Prosecuting a rich man for being rich is, at least, an ad hominem attack. But carry the countermand too far—which it sounds to me like Ellis may have done—and you weaken the prosecution’s ability to question how that lifestyle was funded. Mystal does not raise these specific points here. What he does do is assure me that the appearance that Ellis is favoring, at least for the moment, the defense wasn’t just my misperception based on left-of-Donald-Trump journalism.[5]

Finally, as to class and the system of injustice, Jeffrey Reiman has that covered.[6] And it’s not like he’s the only one.[7]

Elie Mystal, “Should Manafort Prosecutors Request A Mistrial?” Above The Law, August 10, 2018, https://abovethelaw.com/2018/08/should-manafort-prosecutors-request-a-mistrial/

Jonathan Turley, “Judge in the Manafort trial is creating some big problems,” Hill, August 12, 2018, http://thehill.com/opinion/judiciary/401443-judge-in-the-manafort-trial-is-creating-some-big-problems


Mendocino Complex

Fig. 2. Los Angeles Times, fair use.

Alejandra Reyes-Velarde and Priya Krishnakumar, “More than 50% of this California county has burned since 2012. Some residents have had enough,” Los Angeles Times, August 14, 2018, http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-lake-county-fire-epicenter-20180814-story.html


  1. [1]Jonathan Turley, “Judge in the Manafort trial is creating some big problems,” Hill, August 12, 2018, http://thehill.com/opinion/judiciary/401443-judge-in-the-manafort-trial-is-creating-some-big-problems
  2. [2]Alejandra Reyes-Velarde and Priya Krishnakumar, “More than 50% of this California county has burned since 2012. Some residents have had enough,” Los Angeles Times, August 14, 2018, http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-lake-county-fire-epicenter-20180814-story.html
  3. [3]Elie Mystal, “Should Manafort Prosecutors Request A Mistrial?” Above The Law, August 10, 2018, https://abovethelaw.com/2018/08/should-manafort-prosecutors-request-a-mistrial/
  4. [4]Jonathan Turley, “Judge in the Manafort trial is creating some big problems,” Hill, August 12, 2018, http://thehill.com/opinion/judiciary/401443-judge-in-the-manafort-trial-is-creating-some-big-problems
  5. [5]Elie Mystal, “Should Manafort Prosecutors Request A Mistrial?” Above The Law, August 10, 2018, https://abovethelaw.com/2018/08/should-manafort-prosecutors-request-a-mistrial/
  6. [6]Jeffrey Reiman, The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison, 7th ed. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2004).
  7. [7]Steven E. Barkan, Criminology: A Sociological Understanding, 3rd ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006).

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