Now that he's been found medically fit to stand trial, jury selection has started in the trial of Peter Braunstein, the journalist who allegedly posed as a firefighter and molested a former co-worker on Halloween in 2005. The thing is 70% of the jurors questioned yesterday had heard about the trial and left, thanks to the moment-to-moment coverage of the case (exhibit A, B, C). But the NY Times said 30 prospective jurors who would be able to be fair remained. Can you imagine if you were on called to serve on that jury?
In other trial news, State Supreme Court Justice Thomas Farber has decided that three days of statements made by Braunstein while being transported (after weeks on the run and threatening to kill himself at the University of Memphis) by a NYPD detective had to be excluded. From the NY Times:
The justice ruled that the detective, Josh Ulan, had cajoled the statements out of Mr. Braunstein over three days, even while on an airplane traveling from Memphis to New York, in violation of Mr. Braunstein’s constitutional Miranda rights to have a lawyer present during police questioning.
Justice Farber observed wryly that Mr. Braunstein’s rambling, disjointed narrative — as transcribed later from memory by Detective Ulan — appeared to be “the longest non-Mirandized statement in the history of criminal law.”
...Justice Farber ruled after listening to Detective Ulan testify during pretrial hearings that he thought he was simply making “idle conversation” with Mr. Braunstein, not conducting a police interrogation.
The judge noted that Mr. Braunstein began by saying, “I really don’t think I should talk to you. I want to do the whole lawyer thing,” which the detective duly noted.
That sounded a lot like a request for a lawyer, the judge said, adding that since the detective did not proceed to read Mr. Braunstein his Miranda rights, it might never be possible to know for sure.
D'oh - that's totally reminiscent of the times the cops on Law & Order mess up an interrogation or search and Jack McCoy gets all angry. Apparently the things Braunstein said were how his father was a "media whore" and asked if his victim had a book contract. However, the prosecutors do get to use Braunstein's diary, which was found in his backpack. Which is interesting, because he allegedly wrote that he pretended to be "neurotic verging on [sic] manic-depressive psychotic," which might fly in the face of his defense team's strategy that he's crazy. Or maybe Braunstein's so crazy that pretending to be crazy is the crazy thing.
Interesting facts: Justice Farber got the case because Justice James Yates has to finish a "complex bench trial of bid-rigging charges against former executives of the world's largest insurance broker, Marsh & McLennan." And Farber is married to fashion designer Dana Buchman, but apparently the defense is okay with that (Braunstein had written for Women's Wear Daily and other fashion magazines).