April 19, 2016
Judge Spares Jury’s Feelings

From The Associated Press:

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Prosecutors at Pacific Gas & Electric Co.'s upcoming criminal trial cannot show jurors a segment of a pipeline that exploded in a San Francisco Bay Area neighborhood or discuss how many people were killed and homes were destroyed, a federal judge ruled…

Viewing the pipe could create an emotional response in jurors, U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson said Monday…Henderson also barred prosecutors from saying how many people died [ed. note: 8] and how many homes were destroyed [ed. note: 38] in the 2010 San Bruno blast as well introducing images of the explosion site. He said that information could unfairly prejudice jurors.

I was about to snark something along the lines of “Would it surprise you to learn that Judge Henderson is a George W. Bush appointee” when I figured I’d better check. Might have been Ronzo who saddled us with this winner.

Turned out it was my old boss, Jimmy Carter. Oh, well…

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at April 19, 2016 06:59 PM
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So if it's not about eight deaths, or the wanton destruction of 38 homes, or other "collateral damage" near the explosion site, what's the trial supposed to be about? Lighting a match in a no smoking zone?

Sheesh!

Yours very crankily,
The New York Crank

Posted by: The New York Crank on April 19, 2016 9:48 PM

This reminds me of a scene in the 1998 film A Civil Action, about real-life tort lawyer Jan Schlichtmann (I guess the case in the movie must have been based in real life too). During a closed preliminary hearing, Schlichtmann, played by John Travolta, elicits some heart-rending testimony from surviving relatives of dead people killed by toxic waste. The defense attorney (Robert Duvall) realizes that his clients are toast if those people ever testify in open court, so he arrives early to a meeting he and Schlichtmann are having with the judge (John Lithgow) -- a law-school classmate -- and convinces him that none of them should testify. It's supposedly to spare them from going through the painful emotions again. By the time Schlichtmann arrives, on time, for the meeting, everything is decided and he's completely sandbagged. Pretty good movie.

Posted by: Tim on April 21, 2016 11:59 AM
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