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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Sunday, January 16, 2005

Trial of a Now-Acclaimed Journalist for 1961 Bank Robbery: UPDATE: Convicted of Manslaughter

Stuartpicture_3On January 10, 62 year-old Wilbert Rideau went on trial for the 4th time for a 1961 bank robbery and killing of a bank teller.  Rideau, an African American, has been convicted of murder and sentenced to death for these crimes by all-white, all-male juries in 1961, 1964, and 1970, but each of these verdicts were vacated for government misconduct.  In 1961 Rideau was 19 years old.  Now that 44 years have passed, Rideau has become an acclaimed journalist and documentary filmaker while serving time in prison (he has served significant prison time because his 1970 conviction was not reversed until recently).  Also in this timespan, the bank has been demolished, the crime scene has become an interstate highway, and most of the witnesses are dead.  In this 4th trial, the prosecution is not seeking the death penalty and plans to use the previous testimony of 13 witnesses who are now unavailable but were previously cross-examined.  The defense plans to emphasize Rideau's complete transformation into a man who has contributed to society in notable ways--he has won a journalism award, made public speeches about the criminal justice system, served as an NPR correspondent, and had his documentary nominated for an Academy Award all during his 44 years in prison.  Four parole boards have recommended Rideau for clemency, but each recommendation has been rejected by LA governors. The presiding judge, Judge Ritchie intends to exclude most of this mitigating evidence, but according to LSU Law's CrimProf Stuart Green, the defense should still use "some kind of jury nullification" theory.  More . . .  (picture is CrimProf Stuart Green)

UPDATE:  The jury convicted him of the lesser charge of manslaughter, which means he walked free, as he had already served more time than the maximum allowed for manslaughter.  Story . . . [Mark Godsey]      

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