What if court cases were decided with a coin toss? Heads, the prosecution wins. Tails, the defense.
Or maybe a decision could be reached by drawing lots, with judgment going against the party with the shorter straw.
Sure, it would be faster and cheaper, but would it be fair?
If your fate is in the hands of Kanawha Circuit Judge Carrie Webster, you might be better off taking your chances with coins and stalks of straw.
Getting a decision out of Judge Webster can take years — and even then it could easily be overturned by a higher court.
This year alone, the state Supreme Court has twice ordered Webster to issue her rulings more expeditiously. One remonstrance involved a motion pending since January 2011, the other a petition from a convicted murderer that had languished since September 2009.
This week, the state Supreme Court granted a writ of prohibition against her on behalf of Kanawha County prosecutors.
Webster had suppressed crucial evidence in a murder trial simply because it had been misfiled at the State Police lab and thus could not be produced promptly in response to the defendant’s discovery request.
In its petition to the court, the Kanawha County Prosecutor’s office argued that Judge Webster “erred in acting outside her legitimate powers and exceeded her legitimate authority by excluding the shell casings recovered at the scene of the crime and instructing the State of West Virginia to refrain from mentioning or eliciting testimony at trial regarding the shell casings.”
The high court agreed, vacating Webster’s order to suppress the evidence.
We applaud the state Supreme Court’s decision to reverse a ruling that could have led to a person accused of felony murder getting off because of a simple filing error.
And we encourage Judge Webster to consider recusing herself from all future cases – not because of a conflict of interest, but because she seems to be incapable of competent judgment.