Former Birmingham mayor Larry Langford has requested a new trial following his conviction on corruption charges. His attorneys cite the speed of the verdict (the jury took less than two hours to find him guilty on all 60 counts), the venue, and the fact that gambling magnate Milton McGregor’s name came up during the trial. They have also asked for a judgment of acquittal.
The linked article doesn’t say why Langford thinks mention of McGregor would influence the jury. I’d be interested to know the reasoning there. As for the venue, Langford’s attorneys asked for and received a change of venue for the first trial. I don’t know how much traction they’ll get on that complaint. Speed of the verdict? Well, it was much faster than I expected, but then I didn’t expect him to be convicted on all counts. Kyle Whitmire offers a very reasonable explanation here as part of an excellent retrospective on Langford. Be sure to read the whole thing.
U.S. District Judge Scott Coogler sent the case to the jury at about 2:30 in the afternoon. By 4:30, everyone was returning to the courtroom for the verdict. When you consider that the jury took a 15-minute smoke break before starting deliberations, and tack on another five to 10 minutes for getting situated and electing a foreman, the jury spent at most an hour-and-a-half coming to its conclusion.
Since the verdict, many have pointed to that expediency as evidence of jurors’ negligence. One lawyer I talked to wondered whether the jury even took the time to read the indictment. With 60 counts, this looked like a complicated case, but as defense lawyer Mike Rasmussen said in his closing argument, this trial wasn’t about what happened; it was about why it happened. The defense never really contested the circumstantial evidence. Instead, Langford’s lawyers questioned only the mayor’s understanding of the scheme. They left the jury with only one question to answer: Did Langford understand he was taking bribes? Once they had answered that question, the rest of the so-called “overt acts” in the indictment fell into place.
I don’t blame Langford’s attorneys for going this route. It’s all part of a vigorous defense. We’ll see if they have any success.