A slim majority of the Supreme Court has granted convicted rapist and murderer Marcus Wellons another chance to keep appealing his case.  Because the appeal is based on a bizarrely distasteful incident, it has attracted media attention.

Whereas a run-of-the-mill appeal by someone who merely tortured, raped and murdered a high school girl wouldn’t merit any attention at all:

Something strange happened during the 1993 murder trial of Marcus Wellons. Outwardly, the Supreme Court observed Tuesday, the trial “looked typical.” But “there were unusual events going on behind the scenes.”  For example: The Georgia judge in the case spoke outside court to jurors who had gathered at a local restaurant.  And after Wellons was convicted and sentenced to die, jurors presented the female judge with a gift of “chocolate shaped as male genitalia,” as the Supreme Court recounted it.  If that were not enough, they gave the bailiff a chocolate gift “shaped as female breasts.”

Justice Samuel Alito, dissenting from the majority opinion to send the case back to a lower court to be reconsidered, called the jurors’ gifts “troubling,” “strange and tasteless.”  On that, anyone could agree.  Why would jurors do such a thing?

Though it hasn’t been widely reported, Wellons’ attorney is actually arguing that the gag gifts are “evidence of the jury’s racial bias” against Wellons.  In other words, she is saying that the chocolate genitalia represents Wellons.  So what do the chocolate breasts represent?  The 15-year old victim?  Would jurors be that racist?  That callous towards a dead young girl?

Or were they, perhaps, merely blowing off steam after a long trial and sentencing?  Remember, the jurors had just been subjected to horrifying evidence of cruelty, endless legal posturing (while their lives were put on hold for weeks or months), and then the netherworld of post-conviction testimony, in which a parade of character witnesses and hacks for hire wax poetic on the defendant’s qualities, spinning fairy tales out of pig’s ears.

I don’t wish to excuse the jurors’ extremely bad taste, but could anyone emerge from such an experience without getting a bit punch-drunk?  Could a civilian witness the clown-car pile-up of criminal procedure and walk away feeling merely refreshed?

Well, that hardly matters now.  File it in the same trash-bin that holds the facts of the actual crime, and the defendant’s actual guilt, which nobody is questioning: Marcus Wellons has been appealing the minutiae of this case for twenty years now on your dime, and he’s going to continue doing the same, also on your dime, for the next five, or ten, or twenty years, as his violent actions and his victim’s life both fade from memory.

And that is the really distasteful joke.

Tomorrow: Lack of Remorse, Parade of Appeals

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