Conley Dodges A Bullet

The Supreme Judicial Court just issued its ruling on a much-anticipated appeal involving Joseph Cousin, the man alleged to have murdered 10-year-old Trina Persad in 2002. The 2004 trial ended in a mistrial, when prosecutors contended that several jurors had lied about their criminal histories. Cousin and his attorney, Willie Davis, argued that the DA's office had acted improperly, and had deliberately attempted to force a mistrial -- they brought the criminal-history evidence to the judge during deliberations, after the jury had acquitted Cousin's co-defendant. Davis appealed the case, asking that double-jeopardy be attached, preventing the DA from re-trying Cousin.

The SJC sided with District Attorney Dan Conley, which means the retrial of Cousin may continue.

The legal effect of the decision is to validate prosecutors' use of criminal background checks on jurors, which a lot of folks think is a bad idea on civil liberties grounds. But the political effect is to save Conley's ass. If it had turned out that his actions gave Cousin a free pass for allegedly killing a little girl, that would have been devastating.

Conley's office still needs to win at trial, which will be no easy task. But if they lose, Conley can always blame the jury, as usual.

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