Monday, October 02, 2006


Saturday morning, the jury in the federal prosecution of Robert Vigil returned a verdict. Vigil was acquitted of 23 of the 24 charges. The conviction was on the charge of attempted extortion (hire this woman at a high salary, or you do not get the contract). The 23 acquittals were on various kickback and corruption charges.

Now it is okay to Monday morning quarterback.

First, why so many counts (charges). Looks bad to inexperienced jurors, because the U. S. Attorney let the other accused off with only one count each. Did those who plead guilty to one count (in a plea agreement) get a “sweetheart deal”? Hardly, but an ignorant jury might be mislead. The prosecutor has to file numerous charges (throw a big loop); otherwise, the defense counsel will argue that indeed, the accused may be guilty of some crime, but there is a reasonable doubt that he is guilty of this charge. The prosecutor is not allowed to explain that he throws a big loop because he wants a conviction, and would settle for a plea of guilty to one count, just as he did with the co-defendants or other defendants.

Next, where was the United States Attorney? This was a political trial to many, and perhaps to some of the jury. In any event, it is an important case, not the usual type of charge (drug pushing; or felony in Indian Country; e.g.). The jury likes to see the DA herself or the U.S. Attorney himself in high profile cases. Makes the jury feel that jurors are respected.

Next, did Sam Bregman, defense attorney, get away with an appeal to the sympathy of the jurors (in the closing argument)? Sounds like it, if the newspapers report of the argument is correct and complete. Did the prosecutor object, respond in kind, or let it pass? If he let it pass, was it because he thought the jury would be too intelligent to be swayed by an argument that the accused and his family [look out there; they are sitting there on the front row] would suffer from a conviction. Even intelligent jurors can be swayed by the sympathy argument. That is why juries are told that they are not to allow sympathy, or the consequences of their verdict, to affect their verdict.

Yes, this is Monday morning quarter-backing; and we may be completely off base. We saw none of the trial, due to the relative secrecy of federal criminal trials and appeals. No on-line information here; no television; no radio; no still photographs. Our uninformed opinion is that the prosecution did a good job and that conviction of a charge that carries a possible 20 years is a definite victory for the government.