Monday, January 28, 2008

Wesley Snipes: What to Expect This Week

The prosecution rested in the Wesley Snipes case with a prosecution tax witness making the final statement to the jury. (See Orlando Sentinel AP here and Stephen Hudak here and here).  Rick Cundiff at reports on discovery issues regarding one of the prosecution witnesses. And the star, Snipes, seems to be getting a crowd for the show (see here).  There is even a blog devoted to following the trial (here).

Next week is defense week, although the defense does not have to present any witnesses or do anything for that matter. A defendant in a criminal case is presumed innocent and the burden never shifts to the defense on the crucial issue of whether the accused is guilty of the crimes charged. The initial list of witesses included many a celebrity (e.g. Sylvester Stallone), but whether that will happen is an unknown, just as having Snipes testify is uncertain. Here are some pros and cons of having Snipes take the stand -

Cons -

  • There are a lot of years without tax returns to explain away.
  • It provides an opportunity for the government to increase the amount of potentially damaging evidence as Snipes would be required to answer questions posed to him.

Pros -

  • Unlike so many witnesses, he has experience speaking to a crowd.
  • It would give him a chance to provide the jury with an explanation of his lack of intent - a crucial hurdle faced by the prosecution.

It could be a long or very short week, depending on what the defense decides to do here.


Celebrities, Prosecutions, Tax | Permalink

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In tax protester cases, the defendants are convicted a vast majority of the time, because the evidence of nonpayment is so overwhelming and because their various tax protest pseudolegal arguments are typically not allowed to be introduced.

The one defense that sees success from time to time is the "too dumb to know better" defense, whereby the defense tries to prove that the defendant was not wilfully evading taxes because he/she honestly thought she didn't have to pay them. This defense usually fails, but sometimes, especially when the prosecution stumbles, it succeeds. Sometimes prosecutors in tax evasion cases are overconfident and almost arrogang, and juries can react to that.

In this particular case, the celebrity status of Snipes throws a big wrench into things. You never know how juries will react ot celebrity defendants. However, celebrity tax protesters have lost before, including a major professional figure skater in 1998.

Posted by: Mark | Jan 31, 2008 9:01:39 AM

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