OKAY, let's get this straight once and for all. There is...

October 24, 1994|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

OKAY, let's get this straight once and for all. There is no --

en oh -- guarantee in the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution that O. J. Simpson or anybody else gets a quote fair unquote trial. The amendment says:

"In all criminal prosecutions the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense."

You see "fair" in there? The reason we hear all this whining from criminal lawyers about the right to a "fair" trial -- one not the subject of publicity is their definition -- is that judges decided that the Fifth Amendment's language asserting that "no person . . . be deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process" requires so-called fairness.

"Due process requires that the accused receive a trial by an impartial jury free from outside influences," meaning me, Geraldo, the New York Times, etc., the Supreme Court once ruled. The justices who so ruled are, of course, lawyers, and this was just a little gift to their brethren, like Robert Shapiro and other heroes of the bar.

Shapiro's latest ploy is to argue that his client Simpson has been the subject of so much publicity that he can't get a fair trial for at least a year, therefore he should be let out of jail till then.

Where does Shapiro think he is? In Baltimore County Circuit Court?

Actually if Shapiro really had his client's best interest at heart, instead of spending him broke with all this monkeying around in L.A., he would try to get the trial moved to Baltimore County, then make sure that Judge Robert Cahill gets the case. Judging by his decision and remarks in a recent case, Judge Cahill probably thinks Nicole Simpson got what was coming to her.

Judge Cahill just gave a wife killer 18 months of easy time, on the grounds that he was provoked by his wife's unfaithfulness.

(I can see it now. Shapiro: "Yes, your honor, my client slashed Nicole's throat, and stabbed Ron Goldman numerous times, but he knew she was fooling around and thought it might be with him." Cahill: "I can't think of a situation that would provoke an uncontrollable rage greater than this! Eighteen months, home detention, work release!")

In the county wife slaying case, Judge Cahill imposed exactly that sentence, which is far below the minimum in the state's sentencing guidelines. Judges get away with this because sentencing guidelines here are advisory only. They ought to be mandatory, as they are in 14 states and in the federal system, where sentences that are more lenient than the guidelines minimum can be appealed by the prosecution.

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