December 7, 2007
When Judges Politely Disagree
The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals recently reversed a criminal conviction in a particularly brutal crime over the dissent of a single justice. On Tuesday, a concurrence in the case was filed that is reprinted below in its entirety:
Four members of this Court, including jurists who could hardly be characterized as coddlers of criminals, concluded that the defendant's criminal trial was so flawed that there must be a “redo.” Objecting to this Court's action we find - no surprise here - a “tough on crime” “sound bite” dissent.
It's also no surprise that the dissent bears no relation to the facts of the case. As the Court's opinion points out, the circuit court could have weighed the “other crimes” evidence, and given a limiting instruction, if that evidence was found to be relevant and reliable, etc., after a hearing. But this never happened.
“Who cares?” says the dissent. “It was a gruesome murder, the defendant is probably guilty - end of story!”
Thankfully, this Court did care, and protected the integrity of our justice system. Accordingly, I concur. (Mike Frisch)
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