Wednesday, April 9, 2008

It takes a handful of hard-shelled nuts to make a sympathetic figure of Cyril Wecht . . .

and Mary Beth Buchanan, Art Schwab and Stephen Stallings are a complete recipe.

Cyril Wecht is many things. A doctor and a lawyer. A world-renowned (and somewhat self-promoted) forensic pathologist. Abrasive, condescending, combative. The most, if not the only, competent and qualified elected official in city- or county-wide politics in decades. A guy who doesn't learn obvious lessons, despite the degrees and accomplishments.

What he is not is someone who deserves to spend months on the barbed end of a legal pitchfork whose three tines are Mary Beth Buchanan, Art Schwab and Stephen Stallings.

Buchanan, the priority-challenged United States attorney, has directed her current myopic prosecutorial focus (which myopia is good news for Republican evildoers and any remaining unincarcerated water-pipe kingpins, although bad news for our system of justice) on persecuting Dr. Wecht Esquire for sending (by taxpayer-funded telephone line) a series of facsimile transmissions whose aggregate value approximates six bucks.

Stallings appears to have abandoned a successful legal practice in Florida upon Bush Jr.'s ascendancy to become a zealous cog in the Bush Jr.-Gonzales-Goodling prosecutorial machine, transplanting to Pittsburgh to specialize in prosecutions of elected Democrats.

Judge Schwab, the result-driven judicial spawn of the Bush Jr.-Santorum era of American justice, has managed the Buchanan-Stallings prosecution of Wecht with a pronounced prosecutorial slant. He also reportedly feels entitled and qualified to instruct dismissed jurors (all of whom, according to the rules, are adults) with respect to how they should exercise their rights of expression.

A jury overcame Judge Schwab's guidance and the prosecutors' zeal -- after an interminable prosecutorial presentation, a 'we don't think we need to say a word' defense and an apparently dicey couple of weeks of deliberation -- by refusing to convict Dr. Wecht Esquire.

After contemplating the equities, the costs (financial and opportunity), and the lessons of the first go-round for, oh, 17 seconds, Ms. Buchanan announced that she wishes to take another swing at Dr. Wecht Esquire. The referee has decreed that the second round will commence next month.

This would be irregular legal procedure -- for the defendant to assist the prosecution with assessment of its case, but in this circumstance Dr. Wecht may be the sole person in the county qualified to assist Ms. Buchanan and Mr. Stallings in evaluating what is left of their case. So far as I am aware, Dr. Wecht Esquire is the only person in this region who has performed 12,000 autopsies.

No comments: