Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Is That All There Is?

Is it just me, or did the prosecution in the Mark Ciavarella trial wrap up its case rather quickly?

To bring you up to speed, Ciavarella is the man, while a Luzerne County judge, who allegedly took millions in kickbacks in exchange for sending youthful offenders to a privately run juvenile detention facility.  Wow!  I think I can now type that sentence in my sleep.

The prosecution rested yesterday morning, after five days of calling about twenty witnesses to the stand.

Granted, a lot of testimony was damning.  There is evidence of a cover up, extortion, tax fraud, and giant wads of cash floating around the Luzerne County Courthouse.

Still, I was expecting something more.  I gather a lot of people feel the same way.  I wanted to see and/or hear the smoking gun.  I wanted someone to get up there and tell the jury how Ciavarella allowed hundreds of kids to come before him without legal representation.  It didn't happen.

Ciavarella's alleged partner in crime, Michael Conahan, will not testify.  Sources told the newspapers that the prosecution viewed Conahan as a liability.  If you can't get useful testimony from an admitted co-conspirator, how strong is your case?

There's something we're not seeing.  Ciavarella and his attorneys are smart people.  There has to be an exploitable hole somewhere in the prosecution's case.  There has to be a sliver of daylight somewhere, something that gave Ciavarella reason to take this to trial, reason to risk a big prison sentence.

All the defense has to do is show "reasonable doubt" to the jury.  It seems like the prosecution has left them an opening.  It will be fascinating to see if the defense can find it.