Alablawg

Commentary on Alabama Law and Society

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Location: Birmingham, Alabama

Thursday, April 06, 2006

You Be the Jury

Everything about the JeffCo sewer project stinks. Part of the aroma is the bribery allegations against, among others, former commissioner Chris McNair. If you are not from around here, Chris McNair was also the father of one of the girls killed in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963.

The B'ham news has a summary of the opening statements.

It will be an interesting case against McNair. Basically, if you are a public official, you can accept gifts given to earn general political good will. You cannot take a gift in return for a specific official action. The difference between legal and illegal? The mindset of the parties. If they intend for the gift to influence a specific activity, a bribe has occurred.

Because the distinction is mindset, unless one party turns state's evidence or they actually said 'this is a quid pro quo,' each case is going to be circumstantial. Only the thinker can declare what was in his mind. Everyone else will have to guess based on the facts of the case. The more benefits conferred, and the more favorable actions taken, the more likely it was a bribe.

This case sounds like a circumstantial one. You normally open with your best facts, so there probably won't be much beyond what was in the opening statements. So, you read the summary, do you think the facts in the story establish beyond a reasonable doubt that McNair solicited the funds in return for granting the contracts? I don't know.