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20130616wap thenational 150Tuesday’s concert by the National at Stage AE was described (correctly, in my opinion) as “glorious” by one music blogger and “extremely powerful” by another. And, no, my endorsement of those favorable reviews has nothing to do with the “Bona Drag was still on” line that they wrote into “Pink Rabbits,” one of the songs they performed in Pittsburgh off of “Trouble Will Find Me,” the band’s sixth LP.

Another new song that was on the National’s Stage AE set list was “Don’t Swallow the Cap:”

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20130613wap zimmermanjuryselect 490

George Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Martin was returning to his father’s house from a convenience store when he encountered Zimmerman. According to Zimmerman, a crime watch member, Martin attacked him and he acted in self-defense. The prosecution will argue that Zimmerman profiled Martin because he was black.

Jury selection began on Monday in Seminole County, Florida. The selection of a jury is often the most critical stage of many trials, but it is especially important in this case. Jurors will be confronted with a defendant who acknowledges taking some action but argues that it was justified.

Both sides have been rigorously probing prospective jurors to learn the extent of their knowledge of the case -- specifically issues like Zimmerman’s internet defense fund and the nationwide demonstrations memorializing Martin.

The presiding judge has ordered the clerk of courts to summon a total of 500 potential jurors, many of whom won't get far before they're dismissed. Prosecutors and defense attorneys will ultimately settle on six jurors and four alternates. In Florida, 12 jurors are required only for capital criminal trials, where the defendant is facing the death penalty.

The first group of 100 potential jurors completed questionnaires about themselves and their ability to serve before they were questioned in court. Of those jurors summoned to court this week, 40 were sent home without ever being questioned by the attorneys. Another 30 were dismissed on Tuesday.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys plan to continue questioning jurors individually about pre-trial publicity until they reach 30, then move on to more traditional jury selection topics like impartiality, self-defense, race and lethal force.

Eventually, the sides will get to 21 possible jurors who will be questioned even further. Out of those 21 potential jurors, six will be chosen to decide Zimmerman’s fate. The way things are going, selecting a jury and alternates could take several weeks.

Here is a typical example of what prosecutors and defense counsel are hearing from potential jurors. Juror "B30", a 65-year-old man with hearing loss, said he recalled Martin's parents going public about their concerns over the lack of an immediate arrest last year and more recently testimony over whether voice-recognition experts should be allowed to testify at trial. "There was fault on both sides as far as I can see, two people being in the wrong place at the wrong time," he said. "Two people who instigated something that could have been avoided."

One thing missing from this case that comes up in most every other high profile case is a change of venue. Earl Ofari Hutchinson, an author and political analyst, wrote that it is no accident that Zimmerman's attorneys never asked for a change of venue. “With the racial numbers, social and economic demographics and political views of those most likely to be on his jury skewed in his favor,” Zimmerman is right where he wants to be -- the Seminole County Courthouse.

(Image: Jury consultant Robert Hirschhorn speaks to George Zimmerman, right, during the questioning of potential jurors in Seminole circuit court, in Sanford, Fla., Thursday, June 13, 2013. AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Jacob Langston/Pool)


Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George, P.C. He is the former district attorney of Lawrence County and just completed a six year term on the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. His weekly column on crime and punishment is syndicated by GateHouse New Service. You can read his musings on the criminal justice system at www.mattmangino.com and follow Matt on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.

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20130610bw Hamoudi 150The Post-Gazette Business/law package starts the work week with Gabrielle Banks' discussion with two University of Pittsburgh law professors and experts on the legacy of the United States' controversial Guantanamo Bay detention facility, to assess the situation facing the Obama administration and the country at large.

From the weekend, the New York Times' Lizette Alvarez sets the stage in Seminole County, Florida, as jury selection begins in the Trayvon Martin case as defendant George Zimmerman prepares a defense against charges stemming from his fatal shooting of Martin 16 months ago.

20130610 concertscene 60And also from the weekend, Panic Street Lawyer's Jay Hornack on the Pittsburgh concert season ahead and the changing legal landscape for same-sex marriage.

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Panic Street Lawyer: Closer to seeing the light

Sunday, 09 June 2013 06:00 AM Written by

20130609 concertlights photocom153153531 490

By all accounts, the AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee had a successful 2013 conference at Pittsburgh’s William Penn Hotel this past week. And by all accounts, another guest this week at the same hotel – the Boston Bruins hockey club – had a successful week at Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center in the 2013 NHL playoffs.

So as early June continuing legal education programs -- and as Pittsburgh Penguin hopes of continuing further in search of Lord Stanley’s cup -- come to an end, what comes next? For me, the next few weeks are highlighted by the beginning of the Pittsburgh outdoor concert scene and the end of the United States Supreme Court term. The weekly PSL task, as always, is now to connect what appears to be detached.

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20130506 dna photocom153568325 150When U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia sat down to write a dissent to the Court’s decision this week permitting warrantless collection of DNA from suspects, he got right to the heart of his discontent with his colleagues. He wrote, “I doubt that the proud men who wrote the charter of our liberties would have been so eager to open their mouths for royal inspection.”

Alonzo King’s DNA was taken in Maryland when he was arrested for allegedly waiving a gun at some people. The police subsequently tied King's DNA to an unsolved rape, for which he was ultimately convicted and now sits in prison.

In Maryland v. King, No. 12-207, the U.S. Supreme Court held, “taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee’s DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.”

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20130603pgfile pghcorningplant 150The Post-Gazette Business/law package starts the work week with an update by the PG's Joyce Gannon on the long-running journey of glass and insulation maker Pittsburgh Corning Corp. through bankruptcy and asbestos-related litigation.

The Legal Intelligencer's Amaris Elliott-Engel details the opposition of the Pennsylvania  attorney general's office to a request for appointment of a special master in the challenge to the Commonwealth's mandatory retirement age for judges.

20130602 legaleducation photocom145902539 150And from the weekend, the Panic Street Lawyer's Jay Hornack takes note of a variety of opportunities for continuing legal education.

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20130603pgfile pghcorningplant 150The Post-Gazette Business/law package starts the work week with an update by the PG's Joyce Gannon on the long-running journey of glass and insulation maker Pittsburgh Corning Corp. through bankruptcy and asbestos-related litigation.

The Legal Intelligencer's Amaris Elliott-Engel details the opposition of the Pennsylvania  attorney general's office to a request for appointment of a special master in the challenge to the Commonwealth's mandatory retirement age for judges.

20130602 legaleducation photocom145902539 150And from the weekend, the Panic Street Lawyer's Jay Hornack takes note of a variety of opportunities for continuing legal education.

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Panic Street Lawyer: Continuing legal education

Sunday, 02 June 2013 08:00 AM Written by

20130602 legaleducation photocom145902539 150For the past ten years, I have spent a portion of every May reading and grading 48-hour take-home exam answers from students in my Law of Disability Discrimination course at the University of Pittsburgh. Once these students accumulate credits from three years of courses to graduate from law school, and then take a bar review course to help them pass a state’s bar exam, they will be eligible to receive an attorney’s license from that state. But their law course-taking days are not over.

In Pennsylvania, an attorney must also annually take a minimum twelve hours of “continuing legal education” courses (CLE for short). So while May is also the time of year when the Pennsylvania Judicial Center begins the registration process for the July 1 to July 1 licensure year, completion of the annual form and payment of the registration fee will not successfully renew an attorney’s license if he or she is not also in compliance with the Pennsylvania CLE requirement.

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