We happen to know Judge L. from way back--she was a student (a good one!) in a legal writing class the Curmudgeon taught to first year law students when he was a third year student at Georgetown.
For those who haven't been following the case, here's a synopsis. Wone was working late one night, and had an early meeting the next morning. Instead of trekking back to his suburban home, he stayed overnight with a college friend and fellow attorney, Robert Price, at Price's townhome in D.C.'s Dupont Circle.
Within an hour of arriving, Wone was dead, stabbed in the chest while in the guest bedroom of Price's home. Price and his two roommates--all three of whom were in a committed homosexual relationship--told police they believed an intruder stabbed Wone. Police never bought that story. Instead, they believe one of the housemates did it, with the others covering; or, perhaps, Price's brother did it and they were covering for him.
Police never had sufficient evidence to charge anyone with murder. But prosecutors eventually cobbled together a conspiracy obstruction of evidence and tampering case against the three housemates. Price and his co-defendants waived a jury trial, leaving it to Judge Leibovitz--a former prosecutor herself--to decide their fate.
Yesterday, Judge L. acquitted the three defendants, while at the same time saying she didn't necessarily believe their story. Based on what we read in the Washington Post, which covered the case intensely, she made the right decision (not that reading about it in the newspaper is the same as being there).
While we absolutely believe the three defendants are covering up a murder, the prosecution's evidence was weak. The prosecution argued that the defendants delayed calling police while they cleaned up the scene, removed a lot of blood, and switched the real murder weapon with another knife.
Problem is, there was never a good explanation for why the defendants did all this, i.e., what benefit it was to them.
The prosecution also suggested that the roommates might be covering for Price's brother, who had had trouble with the law before, and who a few months later did break into Price's home to steal items in support of an apparent drug habit. Here again, however, there was no explanation of why Price's brother would've attacked and murdered Wone, who was in a second floor guest room at the time.
There are all kinds of things that don't add up in the case. The first is why Wone was there in the first place. At the time of night when he arrived, he could have gotten to his own home in about a half hour. By all accounts, Wone and Price knew each other in college, but weren't particularly good friends.
Then, there's the issue of whether Wone was sexually attacked. The Post repeatedly hinted at this, from its police sources, but there was no such evidence at trial as far as we could tell.
The person who's actions seemed the most suspicious based on the evidence at trial was Price's roommate Dylan Ward. His bedroom was next to the guest room, whereas the other two defendants--Price and Victor Zaborsky--were on the third floor. According to testimony and 911 tapes, it was Price and Zaborsky who heard something going on in Wone's room and came running down to find out what. Zaborsky placed the 911 call. Meanwhile, Ward--right next door--apparently did nothing, at least according to their stories to the police. We find that awfully suspicious. He should have been the first on the scene.
In any event, Price and Zaborsky had somewhat different recollections of the events--not too far off, but enough to sound like they agreed on a story, but didn't work out every detail before being interviewed by detectives.
It's certainly not clear why any of the roommates, or Price's brother, would've wanted to kill Wone.
Unfortunately, the evidence was just too weak to meet the prosecution's burden of proving guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt."
That doesn't quite mean the defendants are off scot-free. Wone's family has filed a $20 million civil suit against the three. The burden of proof will be lower, and some additional evidence may be admitted. We can only hope that justice is someday done in this bizarre case.