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In The Case Of Ted Stevens: Dropped Charges Do Not Equal Innocence

It astounds me how many TV bobbleheads are ignorant of the fact that dropping charges does not exonerate Ted Steven. They're just so eager to proclai

Ted Stevens_8f1ca.jpg It astounds me how many TV bobbleheads are ignorant of the fact that dropping charges does not exonerate Ted Steven. They're just so eager to proclaim his innocence, I guess because they're too lazy to figure out the difference. What else is new?

Mr. Stevens’s chief lawyer, Brendan Sullivan, said of his client: “His name is cleared. He is innocent of the charges as if they had never been brought.”

Prof. Joshua Dressler of the Ohio State University law school said, however, that the failure to be convicted in a criminal trial does not, by itself, confer innocence on someone.

“The decision by the judge to dismiss the case is certainly not a statement that the defendant is innocent,” Professor Dressler said, “but that the prosecutors didn’t play by the rules, and for that reason alone we have to use this strong remedy” to deter other prosecutors from similar misbehavior.

In fact, two jurors have said that the dismissal of the case because of the prosecutors’ actions did not make Mr. Stevens innocent in their view.

Brian Kirst, an alternate juror in the trial, said the prosecutors’ problems had nothing to do with much of the testimony that mattered to him. “I mean he had the chair,” said Mr. Kirst, a professional photographer.

He said he was strongly leaning toward conviction — though he did not participate in the verdict because he was randomly deemed an alternate — because he believed that the defense had done little to rebut the basic accusations that Mr. Stevens had been given lots of gifts and never reported them.

Colleen Walsh, one of the jurors who convicted Mr. Stevens, said on her personal blog of the trial’s collapse, “The only thing this proves is that the prosecution messed everything up.”

Ms. Walsh, a church secretary, wrote on the blog as if speaking to Mr. Stevens, saying: “You may be innocent on corruption charges which were never brought up. But you are still guilty of not disclosing some of your major gifts to the public.”

Most of the prosecutors’ mistakes involved the handling of Bill Allen, a chief witness against Mr. Stevens who, the government said, provided some $250,000 worth of goods and services to upgrade the senator’s Alaska residence. Prosecutors failed to provide defense lawyers with interview notes in which Mr. Allen told them that he believed Mr. Stevens would have paid for things if he had been sent a bill and that the renovations were worth only about $80,000.

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