Originally created 01/16/04

Expert predicts big 2004 trials



A University of Georgia law professor told a meeting of Augusta's lawyers and judges Thursday that in 2004, expect more than one "trial of the century."

"We will have a series of high-profile trials that we have not seen in this country since O.J. Simpson," professor Ron Carlson said at the Augusta Bar Association's annual dinner at The Pinnacle Club.

Mr. Carlson, who has served as a commentator for several TV news programs, spoke about high-profile cases that are scheduled for 2004, and the effect of the media and of pre-trial publicity.

He said Georgia law is excellent in allowing judges the leeway to move trials away from their home counties, where jury pools might be tainted by pre-trial publicity, or to bus in juries from faraway counties.

"Judges don't want to be in the situation where a conviction is overturned because of the taint of pre-trial publicity," Mr. Carlson said.

He also said he doesn't agree with the use of gag orders to help restrain media barrages in high-profile cases because they become ineffective as media try to get information and end up getting that information from sources that could be wrong.

Mr. Carlson, the father of Assistant District Attorney Michael Carlson, also spoke about 2004's high-profile cases, including those of the famous, such as Martha Stewart, Michael Jackson and Kobe Bryant, and of the infamous, such as Scott Peterson.

But there will be an even more infamous defendant this year, he said, more infamous than Mr. Peterson - Saddam Hussein.

"This will, indeed, be the 'trial of the century,"' he said.

Reach Jeremy Craig at (706) 823-3409 or jeremy.craig@augustachronicle.com.