back to article Prosecutors have 'EVISCERATED' my defense, cries Silk Road lawyer

An attorney for accused and/or alleged Silk Road boss Ross Ulbricht complained that his defense of his client was "completely eviscerated" on Tuesday after the judge in Ulbricht's ongoing trial for drugs and conspiracy offenses negated much of the evidence presented last week. On Friday, attorney Joshua Dratel stunned a …

  1. Mark 85

    Imagine that...

    Ruling that only evidence and facts can be used. Asking someone what they believed or thought during an investigation is much like asking a scientist to speculate on something before the tests are run. It's only a hypothesis.

    OTOH, the judge could have let the defense proceed and the prosecutor could have re-directed with something along the line of: "... and what changed your mind/thinking/belief?".

    Here in the States, smoke and mirrors can play a big part in getting a defendant off as jury is never allowed to raise a question. They are supposed to take everything (real or unreal) that's presented as fact. The key to a conviction is "beyond a reasonable doubt"..

    Having said that, I'm not on the jury and damned if I know how I'd vote at this point, but what the defense has offered so far (in the press) just seems a bit flimsy.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Imagine that...

      They are supposed to take everything (real or unreal) that's presented as fact.

      It's quite the opposite; a key role of the jury is to determine what is fact from the evidence that's presented.

      1. P. Lee

        Re: Imagine that...

        >a key role of the jury is to determine what is fact from the evidence that's presented.

        The jury, yes, but what about the judge? Ruling out testimony from one of the investigators of Silk Road seems to me a bit heavy handed, even if he is just presenting his theories. This isn't testimony from his mother's uncle's step-father's cat.

        I've no idea if Ulbricht is guilty or not, but I get the feeling guilt isn't going to be relevant to the outcome. The US has been embarrassed by recent internet happenings and they require a win. Justice needs to be seen to be done and that means allowing leeway for dubious evidence to be presented and confirmed or exposed, especially if it comes from the investigators.

        1. gnasher729 Silver badge

          Re: Imagine that...

          It doesn't matter what the person is. That witness wasn't asked about facts. He wasn't asked about things he had witnessed. He was asked about his personal opinions, actually about his personal at some early stage of the process.

          Imagine we turned this around: If the prosecutor was allowed to ask an investigating police officer whether he believed the accused to be guilty. Of course the answer will be "yes". That's exactly what the jury is there for: The accused shouldn't be judged by the opinions of some people involved in the case, but by the facts.

          1. arkhangelsk

            Re: Imagine that...

            Well, but here's the interesting possibility. What if the investigating officer said "No" or "Really, I had another theory that's at least close". Now, THAT would be most interesting, wouldn't it?

        2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Imagine that...

          P. Lee,

          The judge's job is to make sure the jury only get relevant evidence and to then give them direction on how to assess that in relation to the charges. In my experience of jury service (done it tiwce now) defenece barristers seem to throw a lot of irrelevant questions at witnesses, simply in order to confuse the issue - or overwhelm the jury with so much information it confuses them.

          I was only doing crap cases though, nothing worse than GBH with intent - so we weren't getting the highest calibre of people. But the only defence barrister we had who managed a proper bit of oration in his final speech was the one who asked the least questions of the witnesses. And kept it relevant.

          Judges are very careful about witnesses giving their opinions from the box. It's the jury's job to come to those kind of conclusions. So if you're quizzing someone about their state of mind, you can have opinions, as in "I thought he was going to attack me with the knife so I threw a chair at him". There the opinion is relevant.

          But you can't say, "he went behind the screen to hide the drugs" - because unless you saw him do that, you're giving an opinion. You can only say I saw him go beind the screen, and we later found drugs hidden there, and he didn't have any on him when we searched him. It's then up to other witnesses and evidence to prove he had the drugs and up to the jury to find whether he in fact did.

          So in the same way the prosecution can't just make stuff up, or assume stuff, neither can the defence. You can't ask a witness what they believe is the interpretation of the facts, except in limited circumstances. For example when you're examining why a witness acted in a certain way, then their interpretation of facts is relevant.

          An expert witness, for example, is also allowed to draw conclusions - becuase they're supposed to be witnesses for the court rather than prosecution or defence. It's only in unusual circumstances that defence will seek their own expert witness. Although I think this is different in the US system.

          Justice needs to be seen to be done and that means allowing leeway for dubious evidence to be presented and confirmed or exposed, especially if it comes from the investigators.

          That's all very well. But the jury aren't lawyers. It's frustrating, I've served on a jury and felt I didn't have all the evidence I'd have liked. But part of that is that it's impossible to gather all the evidence, and almost everything is subjective. But there are also rules to try and make the system fairer, such as not always revealing previous convictions. And protecting the defence by not allowing dubious evidence to be put.

          The point about rules of evidence are that things that don't fall within those rules, by definition, aren't evidence. And the opinions of the investigating officers are definitely not evidence, and would be far too dangerous to give to the jury. Given that the whole point of a jury of non-experts is to keep the system honest. We pay judges to rule on what the jury are allowed to see, lawyers to try and organise the case in favour of other side, jurors to weigh the evidence to establish our best guess of the facts, and judges to help the jury organise those facts and tell them what is relevant to the law. I recommend jury service to everyone, as it gives you a much clearer view of how things work.

          If the defence think the previous opinion of the investigators was correct, they can put forward the same fact the investigators had, and see if the jury agree. Or agree with the investigators that the subsequent evidence they uncovered pointed in a different direction.

  2. LucreLout

    Am I the only one thinking...

    ...that Kerpeles shot to pieces credibility would actually be improved if he was found to have been DPR?

  3. Rick Brasche

    if that's all the Defense has

    he didn't have a chance anyway. Who did he think he was, a rhyming, meme spouting Legal Dream Team?

    If the bits don't fits you must acquits?

  4. Old Handle

    My problem with this isn't that I think that evidence should necessarily be allowed; I don't have the legal training to say whether that is reasonable or not. It's the the impression I get that the defense didn't have fair warning that this line of questioning wouldn't be allowed that bothers me. Almost as if they'd been set up just so the rug could be pulled out from under them later.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      They're supposed to know the rules themselves. Judges will often let the defence run with questions for a while, to give them a fair go, before stopping them. As they don't like having their cases overturned on appeal.

      The defence don't have to disclose their evidence, in the way the prosecution do, so if they gave no advanced warning, no one could have told them not to do it.

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