The Prosecutor's Last Chance
(Friday, 4 March 2005)



The State's Rebuttal


The prosecution gets to begin closing arguments and then gets a second chance to rebut after the defense has had its say. The reason is that the prosecution bears the burden of proof, not always an easy obsctacle to surmount.

In this case, Prosecutor Samuels might have taken the opportunity to smoothe over some of the rough spots in her case, to reason with jurors and come forward with some more plausible theories. She might have called attention to something positive about her much-maligned witnesses. She might even have re-argued her theory in a calm, rational manner, hoping that having the last word might still make an impression on jurors. But she did none of the above. Instead, she mounted an attack on Blake attorney M. Gerald Schwartzbach.

With reference to something Schwartzbach had said about the two guns involved, she asserted: "It's obvious to anybody that is bullshit!" She responded sarcastically to allegations that the police were on a one-way street, intent only on charging Blake. What should the detectives do, she sneered, "ignore the evidence and go look elsewhere?"

Samuels also countered the explanations for the location of Blake's car by asserting that he (Blake) "didn't park in that spot before with the defendant." Presumably, she meant the deceased. And there's no evidence that Blake ever took Bakley to Vitello's before the night of the shooting.

Again and again, she turned her anger to Schwartzbach, at one point saying that it was "unconscionable" for the lawyer to call Dr. James McCoy "a coward" for hiding instead of trying to save Bakley's life. The doctor's hasty and embarrassed retreat behind the bushes, insisted Samuels, merely proved that he was afraid. It's unlikely that one scored any points, either. And in briefly mentioning Schwartzbach's reasoning on other evidence, she merely glared at him, asking him at least once, "So what?"

Perhaps worst of all, the prosecutor chose to single out two defense character witnesses who testified to the agony Blake endured while incarcerated in a solitary cell for almost a full year following his arrest. In response to Scott Wilson, a fellow actor, and a Catholic priest named George Horan, who both described the conditions Blake suffered, Samuels retorted harshly: "Big deal! What were they supposed to do? Take him out dancing every Saturday night?"

Mercifully, the assistant DA's presentation lasted barely over an hour, ending at 12:05 when Judge Darlene Schempp called a lunch recess. The afternoon began with instructions read from the bench to jurors, and at last, the trial that began in early December of 2004 finally went to jurors.