In this week’s edition of Law and Order with Your Legal Lady, I discuss the latest details in the George Zimmerman case as well as the trials of John Edwards and William Balfour, the man accused of murdering Jennifer Hudson’s family.
First up, John Edwards, whose trial on allegations he knowingly and illegally misused campaign contributions to cover up his affair began this week. Yes, John Edwards did a terrible thing, he cheated on his terminally ill wife, had a child and lied about it. But those sins do not mean he committed a crime and I am sure he will be acquitted of the charges he is facing as the prosecution has a pretty thin case that’s fraught with problems.
The main problem – how can they prove the hundreds of thousands of dollars in checks from Fred Baron and Bunny Mellon were intended for his presidential campaign and not personal gifts to a long-standing friend? Baron passed away in 2008 and Mellon is 101 years old and unable to testify, leaving Andrew Young as the only witness who can clarify this issue. But Young’s own credibility is so questionable that he’s being torn apart by the defense. He’s admitted to using some of the donations to finance the construction of his own home, he’s admitted to pretending to be the father of Rielle Hunter’s child at first, and most importantly, he himself wrote in his book about the campaign that the checks were intended as gifts and therefore not subject to campaign finance law.
Edwards defense also plans to put former Federal Elections Commission workers on the stand to testify this case is not an FEC violation. Perhaps most telling that this case is doomed is the fact that Edwards decided to play the odds and turn down a plea deal that would have sparred him jail time because he was so convinced he’d win. So why did the state bring forward a case that they clearly cannot prove? It all comes down to politics. George Holding, the U.S. attorney who originally charged Edwards, is now running for a house GOP seat, and what better platform to run on than to be known as the man who indicted John Edwards. Bottom line is this case should have never been tried and the prosecution is bound to end up with egg on their face.
Now, the trial of William Balfour, the man accused of murdering Jennifer Hudson’s family, that’s a little more complicated. While there is a clear motive as Balfour is the ex-husband of Jennifer’s sister Julia and he apparently threatened to kill her family two dozen times, there is no clear evidence tying him to the murders. The defense team is strong here and they’ve presented a good argument that Hudson’s brother Jason was a drug dealer, meaning there is a high potential that someone who felt wronged by him took out revenge on the family. The gun also apparently has DNA from someone else on it, and not any DNA from Balfour.
Still, the fact that the evidence in the case is circumstantial at best does not mean Balfour will walk free, his phone was off during the murders and for six hours after and his DNA was found on the car Jennifer’s nephew’s body was found in, both to me are very telling. It’s up to a jury to decide, and while this case is far from a slam-dunk, I’m guessing they’ll find him guilty. Besides, the image of Jennifer Hudson crying on the stand and leaving the courtroom as crime scene photos were shown are hard to erase in the minds of jurors and while I don’t think her star status will affect the case, the tragic details surrounding the murders will.
Finally, another week, another bombshell in the case of George Zimmerman. He was released on bond earlier this week and is hiding in an unknown location with a GPS monitoring device. But just as attorneys for the case were to attend a hearing over whether court documents should be sealed, Mark O’Mara revealed his client had received over two hundred thousand dollars in donations online through a website he had set up himself. The state immediately asked the judge to raise Zimmerman’s bond as he is not exactly of little means like O’Mara said at last Friday’s bond hearing. The judge said he won’t rule on the bond issue until O’Mara provides information about when the PayPal account was opened, who had control over it, and when the transactions were made. I doubt the judge will revoke bail and if he raises it at all it’ll probably be just slightly higher, as O’Mara has been completely transparent and indicated he was not aware of the donations at the time of last week’s hearing. He has now set up a new site under his firm’s control to collect donations for Zimmerman’s legal defense as now Zimmerman cannot be given indigent status.
As for the court documents, the judge ruled that he won’t seal any information unless the defense or prosecution files a motion asking to do so, including for the names and addresses of witnesses. He said he’ll approach each request to seal on a case-by-case basis, a fair outcome I think. Zimmerman’s arraignment is set for May 8th, though he is not expected to attend.
That’s my take on these legal headlines, please leave your comments in the section below on where you stand in the cases of George Zimmerman, John Edwards and William Balfour, and be sure to tune into Law & Order with Your Legal Lady each Friday.