Friday, March 16, 2012
MY EDITORIAL: VERDICT WATCH: STATE V.RAVI
I am not one to write an editorial, my blog is specifically to inform and educate utilizing statistics, news stories, case law, state statutes, rule of evidence, etc., But for the past few years I have had a very strong interest in the Tyler Clementi case from the time the young man took his life to where we are today, in verdict watch. I am very proud of the State of New Jersey for indicting Ravi and conducting what I viewed a very professional trial. The Defense, well was what a good Defense team defines and that is to create reasonable doubt, even if rises to disrespectful behavior in the Courtroom to down right arrogance. I am sure everyone can recall another case where the Defense team could be deemed, "way out of line" and "disrespectful."
But here is the difference, that case involved a murder of a little girl and the stakes ran high, because of the possibility that the Defendant would get death. I have prosecuted cases, where Defense attorneys who I thought were calm cool and collected, turn out to be dragon slayers in the courtoom. Sometimes it works and sometimes it can turn a jury away to the point, where the only words they hear are that of the prosecution. Jury Insturctions in Florida, state, that the lawyers are not on trial and jurors should not be swayed to reach a verdict based on their like or dislike of the lawyer. They jury instrutions also state that what the lawyers say is not evidence. Do jurors always follow jury insturctions? That is for another day.
This case, however is different, because you are dealing with a very sensitive subject, "a hate crime". A hate crime is known as a bias motivated crime. It goes beyond the "protected class" as what we know of in the Constitution, 14th Amendment. Hate crimes are when a perpetrator targets a victim because of race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, class, ethnicity, nationality, age,sex, gender identity, social status or political affiliation.
We have to remember, that if a person committes a battery, for example, physically touching someone against their will, or aggravated battery where a weapon is used or the injuries are so pervasive that they are life threatening, or the that person causes intentional death and the victim is Jewish, for example, just because the victims is Jeiwsh and the perpetrator is not, does not make for a hate crime. There has to be evidence that the reason for the crime was because the perpetrator has a bias towards that particular group of people. In the case of Ravi the prosecution had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed those acts because he had a bias towards Tyler because he was gay and but for the fact that Tyler was gay led Ravi to set up the spycam to perpetrate actions of invasion of privacy and other charges he was indicted on.
If the state does not prove bias intimidation, that does not mean Ravi cannot be found guilty on Invasion or Privacy and other charges. It just means he won't get the guilty on the hate crime.
So did the prosecution prove their case?. I believe so. I believe they proved Invasion of Privacy, bias intimidation. As far as the charges regarding hindering prosecution, obstruction etc., I along with the media and probably half the world paid little attention to the testimony reagarding those charges. The key of interest was bias intimidation. If Ravi is found guilty this could be a landmark for bullying and cyberbullying cases all over the country. One thing we have to remember is that the State of New Jersey did not indict on Tyler's suicide. If they had, then there would have been a manslaugter or lesser degree murder charge. I believe that would have been over reaching. I however do believe that Ravi's actions is what set off Tylers final moments.
My opinon on the prosection was that they were calm, cool ,at times slow, and a bit hesitant in the direct examination. But they were prepared. What I liked is that they did not act like the cameras were on, they were sympatheitc folks who practiced good lawyering. The Defense, was the defense like any other crime case. But the problem was that, unlike Jose Baez, who had this appeal, and at times likeablity, the Defense on the Ravi case was just downright annoying and at times portryaed grownup bullies. For a case like this, and with the recent rash of gay teen suicides due to bullying, you gotta wonder if the Defense maybe acted a little too harsh for case where there was a great deal of evidence. My Verdict: Guilty on Invasion of Privacy and Bias Intimidation.