Olsen Loves Jury Trials, Unless He’s on Trial

In case you missed it earlier today, the petition for a Writ of Quo Warranto by David Johnston, challenging Eric Olsen’s residency, was dismissed on procedural grounds by Judge Ferris. It wasn’t dismissed because it lacked merit, as some sources wrongly reported. It’s a BIG distinction!

Olsen’s legal residency was not decided in today’s hearing. The judge did not make a finding that Olsen was a legal resident of Stafford. You can read more about today’s hearing here.

In this post, I want to address the hypocrisy that is Eric “Law & Order” Olsen. At today’s hearing, Judge Ferris advised Olsen that he had a right to a jury trial if he so wished. Olsen said that he didn’t want a jury trial and that he was fine with a bench trial, before launching into a challenge of the whole hearing on procedural grounds.

This is the same guy that had the following to say, when he announced his run for Stafford County Commonwealth’s Attorney:

I’ve tried many jury trials ladies and gentlemen. I can tell you that there is no better arbiters of justice then twelve citizens chosen at random, asked to come into court and take a day off and decide the facts of the case and administer justice. I believe in the jury system.

What a hypocrite! This is just another example of how duplicitous Olsen can be.

The topic of jury trials is somewhat complicated for the average person, but it’s an important one to understand. The Commonwealth of Virginia is part of a minority of States that allow the Government to force a jury trial. If the Defendant wants a jury trial then under the Constitution he/she can have one, but the Defendant also has the right to waive that right. If a Defendant waives their right to a jury trial, the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office does not need to insist on a jury. Why you ask?

First and foremost, jury trials are slow and expensive. Every other jurisdiction in the Commonwealth understands that fact. So they have jury trials about 15 percent of the time while Stafford has them about 95 percent of the time.

As the Free Lance-Star previously reported:

Olsen and Chichester have relied heavily on jury trials throughout their careers. In fact, Stafford was second only to the massive Fairfax County in the number of juries convened in 2010. Stafford had 79, according to figures compiled by the state Supreme Court.

Spotsylvania County, with a population similar to Stafford’s, had 13 jury trials last year.

This is a point of pride for Olsen, who prefers to let county residents determine the outcome of trials.

Yeah, Olsen takes pride in jury trials as long as they don’t involve him. Something is seriously wrong with this picture. Fairfax County is massive and Stafford has the second most jury trials to them?!

Jury trials are typically very slow and it could take an entire day to try a jury case. In Fredericksburg, where bench trials are the rule, Judge Willis can knock out six trials to Stafford’s one. Plain and simple, jury trials just clog up the entire system. As Independent Stafford County Commonwealth’s Attorney candidate Tim Barbrow puts it,

In addition to the cost of a jury trial to the taxpayer, the policy of requesting a jury trial in nearly every criminal case puts a strain on the entire judicial system. The Circuit Courts also hear a wide variety of civil cases including divorce, child support, custody, adoption, lawsuits between private parties, condemnation, and personal injury and medical malpractice. By tying up the Court’s docket with unnecessary requests for jury trials in the majority of criminal cases, most of which never go to trial, the citizens of Stafford County often have to wait months if not years to have their civil cases heard.

Jury trials are incredibly expensive. Each jury costs the taxpayers of Stafford County about $2,300. That doesn’t sound like much for one trial, but Olsen and Chichester ask for a jury trial in nearly every case. The Clerk of the Court spent ¾ of a million dollars on jury trials last year. That is money coming directly from the taxpayers of Stafford County.

Olsen likes to say that the money is from Richmond and not Stafford, but he is flat wrong. Go ask the Clerk of the Court!

I’ve said it time-and-time again, we need to start making smarter fiscal decisions in the county; otherwise, we will continue to divert funds away from education, transportation and public safety (e.g. see the wasteful public radio communication system). If a Defendant doesn’t want a jury trial, don’t force one on taxpayers!

This is another example of Olsen saying one thing and doing another. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

On November 8, let’s vote for a new direction by casting a vote for Tim Barbrow!


Posted in 2011 Election, Commonwealth's Attorney, Local Politics, Stafford County, Stafford County Commonwealth's Attorney's Office Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,
One comment on “Olsen Loves Jury Trials, Unless He’s on Trial
  1. Not Bill Howell says:

    Judge Farris was obviously a member of the Byrd Machine fraternity. He condescendingly challenged the petitioner’s points at every turn and only gently asked Olsen to “stick to the legal points” when his hyper-caffeinated performance got too blatantly political. Farris endorsed every suggestion Olsen made for dismissing the petition, even though some contradicted others.

    For example, Olsen and the plaintiff’s attorney agreed that the petition had to be filed before the election to be valid. But the judge then agreed with Olsen that it could not be valid until Olsen assumed the office of Commonwealth Attorney. (Can you say: Catch 22?)

    The judge also endorsed Olsen’s contention that only another candidate for the same office in the same election had standing to file the petition. In other words, if you are unopposed for the office, you can ignore the qualifications required by law.

    As Mary Elizabeth Lease once observed: “We have a system that cloaks rascals in robes and honesty in rags.”