The Scarlet Letter
M Is For Murder
For any associated with this case, there can’t be much joy today.
For supporters of the defendants, relief at their friend’s acquittal may well be tempered by Judge Leibovitz’ stern findings that it’s “very probable” at least one of them knows more than he is saying.
For supporters of the Wone family, it’s just the reverse. “Cold comfort”, as Leibovitz termed it, knowing that freeing a man who may be guilty was needed to “…maintaining our criminal justice system as the fair and just system we wish it to be.”
Judging by the heat of a number of comments yesterday, it’s clear many of you are unhappy, angered, or confused, regardless of which side you come down on.
Some have blamed Leibovitz, some blame the MPD and others blame Glenn Kirschner. Some point the finger at homophobia; others, the editors of this website. And some few seemingly just want to pick fights.
But it is a new day, and there are new realities all must face.
The defendants have been found not guilty of obstruction, conspiracy and evidence tampering. They now face a civil lawsuit that brings with it a jury, a much lower standard of proof, a much wider net of evidence, the pressure to take the stand on their own behalf, and the ominously powerful legal machine of Covington & Burling.
Their families know their efforts helped keep their sons from prison, but it has come at a very high cost. It’s likely the Zaborskys – not people of great means to start – will never fully recover financially, and the Ward family – of greater means – will still suffer.
The prosecution did not prove its case to the judge, despite their best efforts. It’s hard to know how much fallout there will be for Kirschner, Martin and Carlson Lieber, but it’s certain this defeat must have hit the team hard. They know a lot of people were counting on them.
The Wone family will likely never see anyone sent to prison in connection with Robert’s murder. That must be a hard truth to acknowledge for them, but it’s a truth all the same. Barring a major break it seems unlikely new criminal charges will be brought. And while the costs of the civil suit may haunt the defendants until their dying day, this must seem far from justice.
Barring quibbles about what she found as fact – for example, her finding that “His Blackberry reflected a final email transmission at 11:08 p.m.” seems curious, given that we can’t recall the “unsent” text messages coming into evidence as being sent – although this may have been a stipulation – her ruling seems solid and brave.
Yet bravery is rarely rewarded in politics, and it’s hard to see any ‘law-and-order’ politician nominating her for higher bench. The irony is that Leibovitz made spectacles of sentencing grafitti artist BORF and a seventy year-old Code Pink protester to the max, but could not get herself over the moral/evidentiary hump in the Wone case.
But through all of this, one other fact seems relevant. Leibovitz all-but-accusation that the defendants are guilty of some crime in connection with Robert’s murder will never be expunged. Not guilty in this case is clearly not innocent.
They begin the next phase of their lives branded with a Scarlet Letter about their necks. It’s not an A for Adultery, but is it M for Murder and L for Liar?