Tuesday, April 14, 2009
On the evening of February 3, 2003, someone put a gun in the mouth of Lana Clarkson and pulled the trigger. It happened at the home of Phil Spector, a man Clarkson had met only that evening. The gun was owned by Spector, who had a decades long history of violence and threats of violence. Moments after she died, Spector told a chauffeur "I think I just killed someone."
It took the Los Angeles police ten months to arrest Spector. Free on one million dollars bail, Spector hired a team of lawyers, inlcuding Robert Shapiro, who stalled and delayed the trial for four years. A first trial ended in a jury that could not come to a unanimous decision. Yesterday, a second jury handed down a verdict of second degree murder against Spector.
As judges are fond of saying on TV, I would like to thank the jury for their service.
As for the Los Angeles police and district attorney's office, I don't see any reason to thank them. The cops aren't afraid of the public in L.A. They are known for their aggressive behavior. But they are afraid of expensive lawyers, and a psychotic like Spector had enough money to hire expensive lawyers.
The U.S. Constitution has prohibitions against excessive bail, which is an important right of the accused, but it also has guarantees of speedy trials, which should protect not only the accused but the victims of the crimes. High priced lawyers earn their money by slowing down trials. Martha Stewart is a notable exception to this rule. She was accused of her crime after the Enron theives were accused of theirs, and her trial, conviction and prison sentence were done before the Enron trial empaneled the jury.
This crap has got to end.
We don't have to change the law. We need to have judges who want to see these practices end. After the first or second continuation, I would like to hear a judge say "Mr. Shapiro, you have just asked for a three month continuation. I am willing to give you a six month continuation instead, where you spend the first three months in county jail for contempt of this court, and then three months to prepare your case further. You can take this deal, or you can start the trial on the date we agreed to the last time you stood in front of me. Which would you prefer? The offer ends when the gavel goes down."
I don't want to see this done on a regular basis, but if it happened a few times, I think the legal profession would get the message and the right to a speedy trial would return to this country.
What do you think?