There is much chatter about the Vega verdict. Gabriel Vega was accused of the 2nd Degree murder of his girlfriend, pregnant at the time with his child, and then burning down the crime scene. The victim, Vanessa Milligan, was nineteen years-old when murdered. Vega was twenty years-old.
The jury deliberated for four days before finding Vega guilty of Manslaughter, a lesser crime than 2nd Degree Murder. Frederick Rench defended Vega, Assistant District Attorney Andrew Botts was the prosecutor.
We all know that Vega was charged with 2nd Degree Murder and we all wish he had been convicted of that crime. The fact the jury convicted him of a lesser charge should not lead anyone to the conclusion that Botts did anything but a good job.
A prosecutor can only put out what he or she has in front of a jury. They can do that in a competent manner with the belief that they have met their burden of proof. It is then up to twelve average citizens to decide.
We've seen good verdicts and bad. The non-juror reads about the case in the paper and, in this case, recalls the initial press reports. That may differ from what the jury is able to hear. These things are messy. There is a judge, two attorneys and twelve citizens involved. Just because Vega didn't get convicted of 2nd Degree Murder doesn't mean Botts screwed-up. He could have a tried the perfect case but if a juror or two wants to hold out, you get compromise verdicts. This, as one reader points out, has the stench of a compromise verdict.
Unless your an attorney with criminal law experience and sat through the entire case, it seems unfair to criticize Botts. Unless you can point to specific errors, Botts did what he could with what he had. Vega is going away for a long time. It's not a time to do cartwheels, but Vega won't be out until he's a middle-aged man.