Editorial by John Ziegler

Attacks Haven't Altered Bizarre Nature of Legal System


Many things have changed in this country since September 11th, but one societal norm that has most certainly not been altered is the tendency for strange occurrences to pervade our judicial system. The last few weeks have shown this is be especially true in the Delaware Valley.

The case with the most intrigue and the largest headlines has been the murder trial of Rabbi Fred Neulander. Among the many interesting and titillating revelations of that testimony, to me, the most fascinating and bizarre morsels of information came from Neulander's mistress, Elaine Soncini. Soncini has admitted, under oath, that she had sex with Neulander just sixteen days after the Rabbi had comforted her at the hospital while her husband passed away. Sixteen days? And here I thought that Kate Beckinsale's character in "Pearl Harbor" was a bit hasty in jumping in the sack with Ben Affleck's best friend after he was thought to be lost at sea!

She went on to say that she believed that her relationship with Neulander was a result of "destiny." Destiny? What kind of view of providence must Sonceni have when she also seems to think that Neulander killed his wife because of their relationship? What makes this claim (blaming?) of fate even more perplexing is that Soncini ended up marrying the police officer that was assigned to surveillance duty at her house after the murder of Neulander's wife. Their wedding took place just seven months after Carol Nuelander's death. Man, destiny works fast!

Then there is the case of former U.S. Rep. Edward Mezvinsky, who is facing 66 counts of fraud and other charges. In recent pre-trial motions, Mezvinsky's attorney defended his client's primary argument that he had lost the ability to tell right from wrong and had his business judgment impaired because of a mental illness and some anti-malaria medication that he was taking.

In response to the prosecution's request to bar testimony on Mezvinsky's alleged bipolar disorder, the defense said that, since even the prosecution doctor's admit some evidence of mental illness, the jury (sure to be packed with medical "experts") should decide the degree and relevance of the ailment. I am sure that sufferers of depression everywhere will be looking closely to find out if their disease grants them the legal right to bilk their friends out of millions of dollars.

In New Jersey, former Gov. Christie Whitman is being sued by a man she frisked during police rounds in Camden back in 1996. The problem here is that the statute of limitations on such a grievance is only two years. The man's explanation for the delay in filling suit? He didn't KNOW his rights had been violated until he saw a picture of the incident in the newspaper in July 2000. He also claims that he did not know WHO had frisked him and, most interestingly, did not suspect that police had no valid reason (which is what he is now claiming) for conducting the search. If even the person BEING frisked thinks that there is probably good reason for the search, isn't that pretty good evidence that the examination was legitimate?

Back in Pennsylvania, an Upper Chichester man who is about to go on trial for kidnapping and killing his 20 month old daughter is asking that the death penalty not be sought should he be convicted. The reason? Is the evidence against him not strong enough? The crime not severe enough? His contrition overwhelming? Nope. His lawyer has claimed in a pretrial hearing that because "the commonwealth has sought the death penalty on a much greater percentage of time for minority male defendants," that punishment would be a violation of his client's civil rights. The REALLY odd part of that rather suspect line of reasoning is that the defendant, Robert Rivera, is not African-American, and looks down right Caucasian.

Meanwhile, in nearby Chester County, the ACLU is suing the county because it believes that a Ten Commandments plaque that hangs outside the courthouse there violates the Constitutional separation between church and state. The peculiar part of this development is not the legal argument of the ACLU (which seems rather strong), but rather the timing of the lawsuit. The plaque has been hanging outside that courthouse for 81 years and the ACLU has chosen the very moment in history that it is suddenly acceptable to see "God Bless America" posted on public schools and state highways to finally raise a fuss. Perhaps the Emmy Awards have been getting their scheduling advice from the ACLU.

Finally, on the national level, O.J. Simpson was once again acquitted of criminal charges. It may not be something we would like to admit, but it appears that at least one aspect of life in America is completely back to normal.

source: <a href="http://dailynews.philly.com/content/daily_news/2001/11/21/opinion/NEUL21E.htm">Related Column that appeared in Philadelphia Daily News</a>

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