So the very high profile prosecution of Pittsford’s Charlie Tan comes to an end in Justice Piampiano’s courtroom, not by a jury’s decision but by the judge’s.
The prosecutors are upset:
“This is appalling. In my 24 years, I’ve never in my life experienced anything like that. This whole trial presented a unique set of facts, but this is definitely unprecedented,” said District Attorney Sandra Doorley, R-Monroe County.
Prosecutor Bill Gargan interrupted the judge at one point. Piampiano told him to stop talking or he would have him handcuffed and thrown in jail. The two yelled back and forth several times as Gargan accused Piampiano of having amnesia – of forgetting some of the evidence that had been presented. Piampiano told Gargan he was offensive.
We at LoS were most impressed, however, by this comment:
“The judge’s decision did not comply with the law based upon the evidence presented, and the judge took pains to recite certain facts, while leaving out others,” Gargan said.
Every criminal defense attorney, and every personal injury Plaintiff’s attorney, has had that exact same experience many, many times, though we are by no means conceding Mr. Gargan’s point in the case at hand because we haven’t read any transcripts or heard any arguments.
That aside, I’ll never understand why judges feel like partisans who have to massage the record to better conform to their determinations, rather than the other way around.
Nevertheless, the unfortunate reality is that Sandra Doorley is right: it’s unprecedented – but only when it happens to the prosecution. It happens to disfavored litigants all day, every day.
The “community”, as they say, is divided and of course the one side is “outraged”, seeing this as a “wrongful acquittal“. And it may be, we have no idea, but even if it is there is no cause for outrage. An acquittal is always a proper outcome in our system. Only a conviction can be wrongful.
On one level we can sympathize a bit with the prosecution here, though: we, too, have been known to say intemperate things when a judge has in our opinion subverted the jury process. But then we have always had real clients, not abstractions like “the people”, and we are legitimately entitled to a little latitude on advocacy whereas prosecutors, being theoretically disinterested in outcomes, are not.
Indeed, this little episode demonstrates how very far practice is from that theory.