It was obvious from day one that the Justice Dept. was way out of bounds in bringing the criminal case against John Edwards. The law is murky, and the facts are murky, making for a hopeless task for the prosecution. Even the Federal Elections Commission, charged with enforcing campaign finance laws, could not find there was any violation here. And yet, the Justice Dept. persisted, and after a long trial Edwards was found not guilty on one count, with the jury unable to reach a verdict on the other 5 counts.
What lessons can we learn from this debacle? The main one seems to be that the justice system needs to keep its hands off political issues. In a democracy the electorate will decide these matters, and a criminal prosecution is completely out of keeping with our great traditions.
The case against Alaska Senator Ted Stevens was similarly flawed. In fact, legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, writing in "The New Yorker", says that "The Stevens case was more than an unsuccessful prosecution. It was a profoundly unjust use of government power against an individual--a case flawed in both conception and execution."
In the Constitutional Law class I took in law school, we studied the concept that the court system keeps it hands off of issues deemed to be "political questions". Of course, the question of what is and is not a "political question" is not always easy to determine; obviously there are cases in the middle that can go either way.
Thank goodness the Edwards jury was thoughtful and mature enough to realize that the case was bunch of crap. Yet, it is a crying shame that Edwards had to be subjected to this horrible torture. Surely our scarce resources can be better spent pursuing real criminals!
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