In this county, justice is well served
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
These days when Congressional approval ratings are in single digits and pubic servants as a whole are rated somewhat below acceptable, it is gratifying to know that at least one sector is serving the people well.
I refer to our county court system. As I noted last week in this space, I was impressed by the efforts of the Pennsylvania State Police in the recently concluded double murder trial but the investigation is not the end in our system but only the beginning.
Long before the Tipstaff calls the court to order there were months of legal maneuvering, briefs and arguments. Some of those proceedings were public. Others were private- interviews and Psychological testing for example. For many intimately involved in the hearing it must have seemed as though the legal wrangling would go on forever. This was inevitable when two dedicated advocates are engaged.
This county is well served by District Attorney Jeff Burkett. Not only is he a capable courtroom tactician but also he displays a genuine personal connection with the families of the victims. His is no hollow courtroom performance but a man who is intimately involved.
His preparation for this case and others I have observed is meticulous in the extreme. I cannot fathom the hours he must have poured over testimony, exhibits and legal issues. In the courtroom a talented staff prepared exhibits and aided in making his complicated case unfold smoothly. This was dedication that goes far beyond what our small county can pay.
On the other side of the coin, the Jefferson County Public Defender John Ingross, battled valiantly to prepare a defense for an indefensible action. That was his job and, considering, the apparent reluctance of his client to cooperate, it was an admirable effort. That is the mark of a true professional. He did not have public opinion behind him nor did he benefit from the efforts of a major police force but he still put on the best possible defense.
We are accustomed to seeing Mr. Ingross in Plea and Arraignment Court, which is very much like justice on steroids. It must be quick and there are many pleas arranged with the Commonwealth.
This was the first time I can recall Mr. Ingross present a defense to the jury. If anyone doubted the sincerity of his efforts they should have been present for his closing argument. He spoke for two hours, non-stop, and paused only when the Judge noted the time. I believe the length of his own closing surprised even Mr. Ingross. The passion was pure.
The third leg of this legal triad rests with Judge John Foradora. During the proceedings the Judge is seldom heard and that is only right. He is the ultimate judicial arbiter in our county court.
It was not until the penalty phase of this proceeding that the Judge's voice could be heard. When he told the defendant that "he would never see and outside wall again" you knew it would be so.
When he said he had walked the road where the murders occurred and had stalked game there you knew he had walked along the same path as the killer. You could hear in his voice his own recollection of the rural terrain.
Most of all you could hear the humanity in his verdict. The empathy he felt for the victim's family and the family of the murderer was obviously genuine for they were all victims of a senseless act.
You could also detect the amazement in him when he tried to find a reason, a motive for this act. He listed, one by one, all of the murderers who have stood before him in the past 10 years and he could always find a motive but not in this case. I believe that discomforted him as much as it has everyone who has come into contact with this case. The why is known but to one man and he is giving no clues.
In an era when Judges are apt to take shortcuts to justice, our Judge cut no corners. He maintained the dignity of the court even into the late night hours. That dignity, however, is clad in humanity.
I rest my case, Bart
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