Monday, March 17, 2008

Closing Arguments In Cyril Wecht Trial

After 7 weeks and 44 witnesses, the case was handed over to the jury after closing arguments by first the prosecution, then the defense, and one last opportunity for the government team. Each had a total of 2 hours.
Assistant US Attorney James Wilson first walked the jury through the nuances of the law, explaining that the "scheme to fraud" language in the indictment didn't mean some cartoon Snidely Whiplash villain, but someone with a plan to abuse trust put into them and enrich themselves. He went through what seemed like each testimony, drawing out where the prosecution had met its burden of proof, including the "specific intent" of Dr. Wecht to defraud the residents of the county as well as his private clients. "You don't, in a fit of inattention, produce $790,000 in a calendar year," Wilson said.
Lead defense attorney Jerry McDevitt countered most of the points Wilson raised, including the issue of intent. He said the prosecution talked a lot about everyone but Wecht, it seemed. There is no way to prove intent in other people's action that Wecht wasn't aware of, according to McDevitt. He called the indictments "legal buckshot" and a desperate attempt to take down Dr. Wecht. His team's motion to dismiss the case due to lack of evidence was denied last Friday, but McDevitt tried to prove that again today through pointing out what he called uncorroborated testimony, implying that witnesses were saying whatever the prosecution wanted in exchange for immunity. The defense did not call any witnesses during the trial.
Assistant US Attorney Stephen Stallings used the government's remaining 20 minutes to show documents he said proved that Wecht knew about his private work happening on county time. One included a letter from his office concerning his role as an expert witness, with a handwritten warning from his son against using the Coroner's Office letterhead.
US District Judge Arthur Schwab gave the jury final instructions then sent them to deliberate. They chose to deliberate from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., except Fridays, which they'll take off.

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