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The Wecht trial: Hounding jurors

| Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Big Brother is making house calls to learn why jurors did not vote as the government had wanted in the federal public corruption trial of former Allegheny County coroner Cyril H. Wecht.

Two jurors said they were unnerved by FBI requests for home visits to explain why the jurors deadlocked on each of the 41 counts.

"Intimidating" is how the jury foreman describes it.

"Commonplace" is how Margaret Philbin, spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan, sees it.

The investigating agency (the FBI) for the prosecuting attorneys usually participates in the post-verdict discussion with the jurors, she says. But the feds couldn't even do that right: The jury was excused before government officials could speak with jurors.

The retrial is scheduled for May 27.

Government's high-priced prosecution of Dr. Wecht, up to and including the questioning of the jurors, is nothing less than outrageous. And that very well could have a chilling effect on prospective jurors fearing that a "not guilty" verdict -- in this or any other government case -- could lead to a visit by inquisitive G-men.

The U.S. attorney must accept the fact that, after wasting untold amounts of the public's money, her office could not get a single conviction -- even though the defense called no witnesses.

So, failing to make a case, the prosecution sent in government's bloodhounds. How pathetic.

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