Thursday, May 31, 2012

Should Edwards Be Retried?

As noted here, John Edwards was found not guilty on one count, and the jury was unable to reach a verdict on the remaining counts. Prosecutors should now move on and not retry Edwards on these remaining counts. 

The government has expended enough taxpayer money on this case and Edwards most likely has had to incur the cost of his defense. Prosecutors have already hurt Edward's reputation with the evidence presented at trial - so there is no punishment basis for proceeding further.  Evidence not presented at trial left the murky question of whether this money was even a political contribution, and the testimony of Federal Election Commissioner Scott E. Thomas that was not heard by the jury raises additional issues on campaign contributions.   But the place to resolve this is not in the criminal courtroom.  More importantly, if skilled folks can differ on this question then one certainly should not hold someone criminally liable.

No one walks out unhurt by this trial.  And that is the huge cost that comes with a prosecution.  It is for this reason that prosecutors need to consider carefully prior to charging anyone with criminal conduct.


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There's a big grey area between "things society finds acceptable" and "things we criminally punish," particularly when we start talking about activities that have no direct victim. I think the overwhelming majority of society agrees that John Edwards' conduct was immoral and unethical and deserving of censure, but the "crime" here seems at best vague and undefined, a "crime" that isn't truly distinct from various activities that have been blessed as free speech by the Citizens United decision.

I think a lot of us want to see John Edwards squirm for his appalling conduct, but such does not make for an appropriate exercise of government power. I think the prosecution has run its course, and I really don't see the societal value in orphaning his kids, who still live with him.

Posted by: Max Kennerly | Jun 1, 2012 1:25:56 PM

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