A surprise when feds lose
Two high-profile acquittals put a dent in the feds' reputation as unbeatable.
Federal prosecutors don't lose many cases that they take to trial.
Highly risk averse, they usually only take cases to trial that are dead-bang winners.
That said, the federal government has nonetheless lost two recent high-profile criminal cases.
First, former Democratic Party presidential candidate John Edwards was acquitted of charges of violating campaign finance laws in connection with the political scandal that drove him from the political arena. The government charged that Edwards improperly used campaign funds to hide his pregnant mistress from the news media while he continued his 2008 campaign for the Democratic Party presidential nomination.
Obviously, the jury was not convinced of the allegations, refusing to accept the words of the government's chief witness, a disreputable former Edwards campaign aide.
The second embarrassment came in the case of former Major League Baseball pitcher Roger Clemens, who was acquitted of perjury charges in connection with his testimony before a congressional committee. Authorities alleged, among other things, that Clemens lied when he denied any connection with the use of steroids.
Once again, jurors were skeptical of the government's case, particularly the testimony of a government witness who testified that he provided performance-enhancing drugs to Clemens.
These verdicts serve as reminders that, however serious a criminal charge may be, it remains an accusation until the case is proved beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Edwards and Clemens are certainly not worthy of any great sympathy. But the juries found they were worthy of verdicts of acquittal, and the jury has the final word.