The 3,800 members of the Bar Association of Erie County salute your service, and that of your fellow jurors, in the trial of Dr. James Corasanti. Against an emotionally charged factual backdrop, you enabled the rule of law to triumph over the frenzy of public opinion.
At the trial's outset, you were admonished "that you not read or listen to any news accounts of the case, and that you not attempt to research any fact, issue, or law related to the case. Yourdecision must be based solely on the testimony and other evidence presented in the courtroom."
Despite your unwavering commitment to the court's instruction, there not being a shred of verifiable evidence to suggest otherwise, it is disappointing that you have, nonetheless, been subjected to unending public criticism since rendering your verdict. This is particularly troubling as it was never your duty to determine innocence; rather,you were charged with the obligation of deciding if the defendant's guilt on each count had been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Some eighty years ago, revered Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo issued the following caution regarding jurors' deliberations, traditionally viewed as sacrosanct: "Freedom of debate might be stifled and independence of thought checked if jurors were made to feel that their arguments and ballots were to be freely published to the world." In simpler times, that was the rule.
Nevermore. Due to heated public outcry following your verdict, you bravely composed a revealing written explanation of your deliberative process in the Corasanti case. You rightly observed, in what The Buffalo News characterized as an appeal for understanding, that "[i]n order to have an educated opinion about something, one must know as much as they can about it."
If the local newspaper provides any measure, however, there is room for considerable skepticism that our neighbors are yet ready to objectively assess your service.
Within days of publicizing excerpts of your articulate appeal for community understanding, a commentary in the June 5, 2012, Life & Arts section of The News speculated that you and your colleagues were seduced by clever defense counsel into basing your courageous verdict on "wealthand a doctor's authority." You deserve far better.
Casting aside prejudice and ignorance, there is not a single reason to doubt your adherence to the oath taken by you to duly hear the evidence and determine the defendant's fate based solely on the law. Experience counsels that, eventually, the community will come to understand the magnitude of your service. In the meantime, each of you is owed a debt of gratitude for your commitment to the lofty ideals which are the bulwark of our country's system of criminal justice.
Arthur A. Russ Jr. is president of the Bar Association of Erie County.