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Wecht watch, March 19

Jason Cato
| Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Dr. Cyril H. Wecht, a former Allegheny County coroner, is accused of using his public office for private gain and of defrauding clients of his private pathology consulting business.


12:59 p.m.

After more than eight hours of deliberations, the jury in Dr. Cyril H. Wecht's federal public corruption trial finally had a request: copies of the actual laws he is charged with violating.

It took nearly an hour before the request was finally denied.

Prosecutors originally objected to the request, with Wecht's lawyers stating the jurors should be given the statutes -- which contained provisions not applicable to this case as well as penalty provisions.

"If that's what they want," defense attorney Jerry McDevitt said.

U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab was surprised by the positions.

"Tactically, I thought the positions would be reversed," Schwab said, before leaving the courtroom to make a decision.

Before he returned, Wecht's lawyers and prosecutors agreed to not give jurors the statutes.

They provided this suggested reply: "You will have to follow all of the instructions of the court given to you, including on those statutes."

Schwab had already crafted his own response to deny the request.

"Since some of the requested statutes contain provisions not related to his case and since the jury instructions provide the necessary applicable law tailored to this case, the court respectfully declines your request," Schwab suggested.

Wecht's lawyers had an issue with a small portion of Schwab's suggestion.

"I think we can correct your language, if you're agreeable," McDevitt said as the judge looked on with a "you-must-be-kidding-me" expression on his face.

McDevitt suggested dropping "tailored to this case." Schwab finally agreed after prosecutors said they would accept either response.

If nothing more, the jury was able to eat its lunch in peace. Their food arrived shortly before the question was submitted around 11:15 a.m., and they received the written denial at 12:24 p.m.

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