I was present at the recent Chamber of Commerce candidates forum for justice of the peace. Rolland Weddell's vitriolic letter to the editor published in in the Aug. 6 Appeal concerning that forum was inaccurate, incomplete and incredibly biased for a purported reporter of fact.
While I take issue with much of what he said, there are three key points this one-issue candidate failed to "report."
1. As Judge Robey Willis said at the forum, he could not respond to Weddell's barrage of criticism concerning his case because that case is pending in the Supreme Court. Judicial canons of ethics prohibit any judge (or judicial candidate) from commenting publicly on pending cases.
2. Willis also relayed to the audience that the role of a justice of the peace in conducting a preliminary hearing is to determine whether probable cause exists to believe a crime was committed and that the individual committed the crime. The burden of the prosecution is to provide "slight or marginal evidence," not "guilt beyond a reasonable doubt."
3. It is a matter of public record that Judge Willis did bind Weddell over to the District Court for trial. The District Court subsequently dismissed the charge based on interpretation of state law. The legal issues which caused the District Court to dismiss the case are currently on appeal to the Supreme Court. However, the District Court also ruled that there had been sufficient evidence presented at the preliminary hearing to bind Weddell over for trial.
I would encourage anyone interested in this justice of the peace candidate's forum to watch the show on local cable channel 26. The hard questions to which Weddell objected came from the business community, not court or district attorney's office employees (which actually totaled nine).