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The Kurt Bonser Not Guilty Verdict: Attorney John Crowley Answers Questions

The not guilty verdict for attempted murder and aggravated assault last week for our client Kurt Bonser generated press and some controversy in the Yakima area. The positive result, according to John Crowley the attorney who defended the case, was more the result of careful, workmanlike, criminal law defense than some spectacular twist in the case. We asked John some questions about the case:

How does your client feel?

John: Relieved at the verdict knowing that he did not do what the prosecutor had alleged. He said he believed that true justice had been done.

Were you surprised by the verdict?

John: No. I waived the jury knowing that we had an intelligent and neutral judge who would put any biases he may have had for Mr. Bonser aside.

The decision to waive a jury trial must have been a tough one. What are the advantages or disadvantages of opting for a bench trial?

John: Advantages are that if you have the facts and the technical basis for an acquittal The disadvantages are that if a judge finds the defendant guilty, it is much harder to win on appeal (it is already difficult to win on appeal Only about 3% of jury verdicts are overturned while less that 1% of judge verdicts are overturned).

There is the old saw about, “Don’t believe everything you read in the papers.” The press on this case was not good. Is there a lesson to be found regarding “pre-trial publicity?”

John: Hatred and prejudice (not necessarily racial prejudice but just pre judgment of anybody) is a very poor idea. It can lead to wrong decisions. A judge is much less likely to be swayed by bias, passion, or understandable hatred (in other words prejudice) than a juror.