Was This A Bad Idea?

A verdict clearing Espy is the latest sign that the independent-counsel statute is likely to perish

The questioning of his star witness was already going poorly when independent counsel Donald Smaltz dumped a glass of water on the computer equipment. As Smaltz tried to make light of the situation, the liquid seeped into the circuitry, shorting out the only high-tech courtroom in Washington's federal courthouse and forcing a recess in the trial of former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy.

Last week the jury did a more deliberate version of the same thing, and it was Smaltz who got zapped. After an exhausting seven-week, 70-witness trial, the jury took just nine hours to short-circuit his case against Espy, rejecting...

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