This piece was originally supposed to run yesterday (7/18), so I’m going to run it a little earlier today (7/19) because the Rak trial is now officially underway.
In fact, I’d be there this morning (7/18), but all they’re doing is jury selection and it would be far too depressing to watch that race to the bottom of the American genepool. Nothing shrieks ‘Idiocracy’ (it’s a movie – look it up) like voir dire.
In his highly underrated follow up to cheers, Ted Danson’s Becker M.D. character can’t figure out how to get out of jury duty. Then he discovers they’ll let him go sooner if he actually serves on a trial, but his efforts to do so are met with insistent rejection.
As he’s being voir dired again, Danson’s “I was reading a book…” response was interrupted by a sharp “Next!” and then you hear a loud “Damn!” as the camera fades out.
Jury of my peers my ass! But I digress.
Once the opening statements start coming, you can bet your sweet bippie I’ll be there as often as time permits, because this already fascinating case is bound to get even better. The local press certainly doesn’t even begin to do it justice.
Meanwhile, let’s review the players:
1. Judge D. J. Tegeler
The eminent irony here is, His Honor’s obvious disdain for female public defenders means he tends makes up his mind up before hearing the whole story, which means we already have two clear cases of reversible error.
And those Second Appellate Court judges have a reputation for applying the letter of the law, too. The problem is, if it does get to the appeal point, it becomes a de facto two- to three-year jail sentence for defendant Daniel Rak.
Meanwhile, somebody needs to tell Tegeler that the black dress doesn’t automatically confer the right to become a bully. Oh wait! I did that and His Honor took the private note to the State’s Attorney in an effort to have me charged.
We journalists get no love!
2. Prosecutor Alex Bederka
Who has the legal acumen of Cliff Clavin and all the personal skills of Peter Francis Geraci.
Though he doesn’t get to make the final call, in typical KCSAO fashion, this case harbors all the kind of reasonable doubt that means murder charges never should have been filed.
How is anyone going to prove that a blackout drunk with a laundry list of major medical problems died due to any one specific reason? But since Alex has no heart, KCSAO Criminal Division chief Joe Lulves has no brain, and KCSA Joe McMahon has no courage, the trial will go forward.
As long as the defense has the slightest grasp of the fading art of letting the other side hang themselves, justice should prevail, because, given the opportunity, Bederka will utterly alienate the jury.
Not only that, but when it comes to crunch time, Alex has a propensity to cut and run as demonstrated by his last minute “withdrawal” from a celebrity boxing match with Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin. Not only did he chicken out, but he left the charity standing high and dry.
Richard would’ve kicked his ass, but that’s not the point.
3. Public Defender Kelli Childress
Who may well be the only attorney who can make Bederka look likeable!
Don’t get me wrong, she’s one of the most brilliant defense attorneys I’ve ever watched work – and this writer rarely applies that adjective. But her propensity to let her passion for the job and her clients get the best of her almost always backfires.
“But Jeff! You’re one of the least likeable people I’ve ever met. Isn’t this a vastly ironic case of the pot calling the kettle black?”
First, I love your use of the word “ironic.” Second, I alienate people on purpose because I generally don’t like them. And third, I don’t have defendants putting their freedom in my hands.
In essence, a defense attorney is “campaigning” for their client. That means crafting a “message” that resonates with the jury, which is simple, direct and repeatedly hammered home.
To make those messaging matters much more difficult, as it is with the voting public, the average American juror is the equivalent of an off-meds ADHD sixth grader coming off a three-day sugar and video gaming binge.
Why do you think “if the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit” worked?
So, if the defense wastes the jury’s time, ignores their limited attention span, or battles the judge and the prosecutor to the point they become unlikeable, they’re gonna lose regardless of the evidence or lack thereof.
So now that I’ve set the scene, it’s time to watch the trial unfold. As I like to say, I’ll keep you posted!
I was there for the opening statements today and:
- Bederka was brief.
- Childress, who bleepin’ knows how to connect with a jury, was a bit longwinded as she took a risky position that could pay dividends.
- And Judge Tegeler finally reminded me of the guy who was my attorney and friend for 12 years.
Perhaps justice will prevail!