Heavy hand of justice

A MAN DIES in the street and another man is charged.

A jury is impaneled and for three days listens to the prosecution's version of events.

Before presenting his case, the defense attorney appeals to the judge for an acquittal and she takes the uncommon step of dismissing the case.

The victim was an off-duty cop. The accused worked for Wells Fargo. They had a history - the accused was involved with the dead man's ex-girlfriend.

The prosecution's case was this: In 2012, there was a late-night collision between a car driven by Kareem Alleyne and a bicycle ridden by Marc Brady, 35, an off-duty cop. Brady died from injuries and Alleyne was charged with vehicular homicide and involuntary manslaughter.

The prosecutor was Mark Levenberg.

Before presenting a defense, attorney James Funt made a motion for dismissal, which is standard operating procedure in 99 percent of cases, Common Pleas President Judge Sheila Woods-Skipper told me during a later phone interview.

What happened next was not standard operating procedure.

With the jury out of the room, Common Pleas Judge Lillian Ransom granted the motion and defendant Alleyne became a free man. The acquittal is not subject to appeal.

This was a huge victory for Funt, who admits he was "pleasantly surprised," and a huge loss for Levenberg.

As to how unusual it is for a judge to direct a verdict in a jury trial, Woods-Skipper told me, choosing her words judiciously, it happens "not all that often."

I have an interest in this sort of thing because I was the victim of a crime. I brought charges against a thief and went to court. The charges were dismissed by a judge who blandly ignored a signed and notarized confession by the defendant.

So I have a grump against judges who ignore the evidence. In this case, the jury had missed work or inconvenienced themselves for days and didn't get to conclude its assignment. Talk about an anticlimax.

Speaking in general terms, Woods-Skipper told me, "it's not the duration" of the trial, "it's the evidence entered."

On that point, Funt told me the prosecution's case was so hollow it should not have been brought to trial.

"The state's own experts concluded that this was an accident," Funt said, adding that Brady had been investigated for some time by the police Internal Affairs Bureau "for stalking and harassing my client."

Levenberg didn't return my call, but the D.A. issued a vague statement saying "the defendant had criminal liability for his reckless failure to prevent the collision" and suggested a jury might have seen it differently.

Funt and the D.A. have vested interests, so I went to a neutral source, Kevin Mincey, a veteran criminal attorney and former prosecutor.

To win this kind of a prosecution, you have to show "a certain level or recklessness, you have to show the equivalent of malice," and the state failed to do that, Mincey said.

Acquittals like Alleyne's are rare "because most of the time the judges won't have the courage to do what she did," especially in a high-profile case that involved the death of a policeman.

"Cases aren't supposed to go to a jury just because a jury sat and listened to testimony for four days," Mincey said. "In my mind, what she did was brave."

Unlike the judge I got, who was stupid, bored or biased.

Phone: 215-854-5977

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