Wednesday, May 16, 2012


See my posts of 4/15, 5/2 and 5/10 for the proper context of today's opinion.

The defense has rested its case without calling mistress Rielle, daughter Cate or Edwards himself. The prosecution's case was presented in three weeks. The defense took only two days. Some trial observers are concluding that this will send a message to the jury of a profound weakness in the government's case, while others point out the risk involved in subjecting Edwards to cross-examination. Not having been in the courtroom, I only know what I've read in the papers. This disclaimer notwithstanding, I opine that a fatal mistake has been made.

Although Edwards' defense is rather technical, compared to the salacious prosecutorial evidence, it nevertheless rests on plain- talk grounds: he did not knowingly violate the campaign contribution statute. This calls into play his state of mind and is he not the last word on himself?

Forget about any presumption of innocence. Sitting in the defendant's chair does away with that, quite nicely, thank you. The jury wanted to hear Edwards say, "I did some shameful things, but I didn't break the law, and here's why."

Daughter Cate would surely have been a supportive witness, humanizing things with the love for her father, which has been so impressively symbolized by her constant closeness to him throughout the trial. But it was Edwards himself whom the jury sought to evaluate as he looked them in the eye from the witness stand. The defense lawyers chose to play it safe, but at what cost? Risks are inherent in every trial but they are to be assumed The case cried out for the former senator to face the music under cross-examination.

Anything is possible. The attorneys had their reasons to which I am not privy. But, wow. Three weeks versus two days.

I am not relishing the opportunity to play the "I told you so" game for, frankly, my sentiments and sympathieys are with John Edwards, a disgraced man wearing a scarlet letter. He is not a danger to society, however. He doesn't belong in prison.

If he is to go down, I would have preferred to have him swing at three strikes.

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