Trials: An Electric Circus

To anyone familiar with the decorous rituals of the courtroom and the unchallenged omniscience of the judge, the scene in New York's Criminal Courts Building last week was shocking and absurd. At one end of the dingy courtroom, silver-haired State Supreme Court Justice John M. Murtagh, 58, sat under the inscription "In God We Trust," sternly trying to keep order. Near by, Assistant District Attorney Joseph Phillips, a tough, hard-working prosecutor, doggedly tried to follow the guideposts of long-established court procedure.

On the other side of the courtroom, surrounded by a phalanx of...

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