Judge Jumps the Gun on Declaring Defendant Guilty

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The evidence against Joseph Nee, on trial for allegedly plotting a Columbine-style attack at his high school, seems to have been fairly strong.  Or at least you could infer that from the fact that the judge in his bench trial announced to a crowded courtroom that the State had proven its case, and was then reminded that closing arguments had not yet been made.

I have always thought that oral argument was a little bit overrated, but it is nice when the judge at least pretends to listen.

It wasn’t very clear why the judge jumped the gun, but he seems to have forgotten that closing arguments had not been made yet and instead proceeded to read his decision from the bench at 10 a.m. February 14.  Those expecting to hear two hours of closing argument were surprised to hear the judge begin, "The Commonwealth has proved this case beyond a reasonable doubt."

The defendant’s attorney noted at that point that closing arguments had not yet been made (the State’s argument may have been the day before, but the defense at least had not spoken).  That was probably a bit awkward.  Judge Grabau recognized his mistake and directed Nee’s lawyer to continue.

Two hours later, the judge convicted Nee again.

Nee and another student were accused in 2004 of planning an assault on Marshfield High School.  Nee reported the plot to police but was eventually arrested himself after others said he was actually the ringleader.  Nee will be sentenced on Tuesday, presumably only once.

Link: Boston Globe