Of Counsel

Legal Notes on Georgia and The South

Stop the Presses!

Posted by Maggie on January 31, 2008

Is it wrong that I want to take Jeffrey Toobin and shake him? I thought when I wrote my last entry (though I didn’t expound on the thought) that it seemed bizarre for someone to put a statement like that in an article, whether it was true or not. Anyway, the damage is done and Fuller has recused himself. If the Nichols case was a Grisham novel, Toobin would have been secretly manipulated into putting in the quote by the legislative committee trying to impeach Fuller or the DA trying to recuse him. I certainly hope nothing that malevolent is at stake, but it seems like a rather reckless thing to do for Toobin in printing that statement.

Toobin’s a lawyer, he knows that judicial bias can be a legitimate problem. You’d think he would realize what an inflammatory comment he was printing. Then again, can I blame him for printing it if it was a true statement made on the record? Isn’t legitimate journalism about exposing these types of issues? But then I immediately counter myself by admitting that I doubt there’s more than a handful of people in the country, not to mention the state of Georgia, who think Nichols didn’t do it. It’s kind of hard when we all watched the case unfold on CNN.

So I’m conflicted. I’m mad but not really mad at Jeffrey Toobin. I’m mad but not really mad at Judge Fuller. Mostly I’m furious that this case is now going back to square one. Or at least, it might.

Two possibilities are here. 1) A new judge is appointed, they bow to legislative and public pressure and start the trial. Any verdict against Nichols is immediately appealed and has a good shot of winning. 2) A new judge is appointed, they take the time to review the file, re-hear motions, and the whole thing takes another couple years before it reaches the end.

I prefer the second option, but I don’t like it. The whole thing is starting to feel unreal, thus my earlier Grisham reference. In fact, if this was an episode of Law & Order, it would end with someone killing Nichols before he got to trial. And at this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened.

It’s strange that the Nichols case is the main thing that keeps my blog going, especially when news is slow. Looks like I may be able to lean on it for quite some time to come.

As a final note, I think Judge Fuller’s decision to step down is yet another sign that he’s doing his best to try the case fairly. http://www.dailyreportonline.com/Editorial/News/singleEdit.asp?individual_SQL=1%2F31%2F2008%4020980″>The Daily Report’s coverage shows his decision in a much more personal light. I’m very upset that he’s off the case. I’m now dreading the possibilities of what will happen when someone else comes on. I worry that this one little thing may be the undoing of everything that all the attorneys on the case, from beginning to end on both sides, have worked so hard to achieve–a trial. And hopefully a fair one.

Update: The AJC is now running a story where Toobin claims that it never occurred to him that the article would have this effect. I guess my conclusion that the remark was printed out of a journalistic striving for truth wasn’t correct. To be honest, I didn’t really notice it on my first read-through, but as soon as I was alerted to the remark, the potential problem of it was there. Why Toobin, as the author of the article and an attorney, didn’t see this is beyond me.


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