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Opinion: Miscarriage of Justice in hog trial

By Charlotte Smith

Justice has a meaning, but after witnessing the hog farm industry trial over the past four weeks it has become obvious, that in our culture today, justice does not go by its definition at all times. According to the Dictionary the there are two meanings of the word justice.

One definition of the word is just behavior or treatment; the quality of being fair and reasonable; impartiality. The second definition listed for justice is judge, magistrate, jurist; a judge or magistrate, in particular a judge of the supreme court of a country or state. There has been a miscarriage of justice in reference to both its meanings during this lawsuit involving the hog industry and their neighbors.

It has been appalling to watch the justice system during the third hog industry lawsuit, held in Raleigh at the U.S. District Courtroom presided over by Judge Earl Britt. Jury members snuggle themselves in blankets appearing to be half asleep, a witness backtracks their testimony, lawyers misrepresent the evidence and all this happens while Judge Britt lounges back in his cushioned seat.

Our judicial system needs to be held accountable. The hog farm trials set to change the way of life and the economic system for many in Southeastern North Carolina and potentially across the globe. At the very least I would hope the judge and jury would sit up and listen with interest to all sides of the trial, but that hope has gone.

As I watched one juror wrap herself in a blanket, recline against the wall with eyes fading it was extremely apparent folks do not understand the magnitude of their service to our country. What kind of judge lets blankets into the courtroom?

We are not going to court for nap time! The Plaintiff’s attorney, Michael Kaeske tried to explain the importance of this trial to the jury. Court cases make changes in our culture, in our economy, in our government.

This trail has left me pondering if this whole country has become lethargic. Do we not care about our neighbors? Do we not care about hard working men and women trying to make an honest living? Do we only serve out of duty?

As a homeowner I can understand issues I may face living close to a farm. I have been there and done that. As a business owner I can comprehend the burden of employing people and trying to walk the strait and narrow to keep Uncle Sam and “big brother” happy. As an active citizen I can appreciate the politics happening to keep our economy and government running the best they can for all involved.

However, as a tax paying resident of North Carolina I would like my money back for the way this third hog industry law suit has been handled. As I stated before; during this trial so many absurd things have been allowed to happen. This case should have been declared a mistrial.

Jury members being allowed to lounge around like it is half past noon in Kindergarten is just the tip of the iceberg sinking the justice in this case. As I reported earlier during this trial one of the plaintiff’s testified the nuisance smell was coming from a field fertilized with human waste. After a break with his lawyer, the plaintiff was allowed to come back and testify he made a mistake and the smell was from the hog farm.

This plaintiff was not impeached for his conflicting testimonies. As a matter of fact, during closing arguments while the defense attorney, Neale was reminding the jury about the conflicting testimony I watched several of the jurors become distracted from the point by a sudden coughing spell made by the plaintiff.

The plaintiff coughed so much one of his attorney’s team members got up, went to the lawyers table for a bottle water and handed it to the plaintiff seated in the gallery. The judge said nothing. 

I have also reported about the lawyer’s tactics and adding his own words as he read evidence. You would have thought the Judge would have been on to his tactic after the first objection, but nope. He allowed the lawyer to continue adding his own words to the evidence, objection after objection never stopping the lawyer until an objection was made.

Yesterday I watched as the defendant was repeatedly referred to as a foreigner. Kaeske has made it clear through out the trial the parent company of Murphy-Brown, LLC (operated here in NC) has “foreign” owners. “Isn’t calling the defendants foreign or foreigners  discrimination,” I thought?

The amount the defendants’ profits were on display yesterday right before the end of the closing arguments. Salaries of the company’s executives were on the big screen for all to see before the jury was asked to start calculating how much should be awarded to the plaintiffs if the jury found proof in the plaintiff’s case.  

Judge Britt told the jury, in this case both sides should be treated as equals holding no prejudices against them. I had to chuckle because of the hypocrisy of it all. “Don’t hold anything against the rich foreign folks causing the smell in the country,” I mused. 

I will end my thoughts now as I just received word $473.5 million dollars has been awarded to the plaintiffs in this landmark trial. Guess we will see how the appeal process works. 

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