Tyeric Lessley, on trial for murder, wins right to refuse jury trial

When is it a good idea to put your fate in the hands of one person, rather than 12? Maybe when the judge in the case seems likely to be easier on you.

Tyeric Lessley, who is charged with second-degree murder for shooting a man outside the Metrodome two years ago, apparently thinks he'll have a better shot with Hennepin County District Court Judge Stephen C. Aldrich than he would with 12 of his peers. Lessley has claimed that the shooting was in self-defense.

The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Lessley can forfeit his right to a jury trial. Here is the justices' opinion. And from the comments that Aldrich has made in the past, it appears that he might have better luck with just the judge deciding his fate. Here's more from the Strib:

He faced resistance from Hennepin County prosecutors who were concerned by Judge Stephen Aldrich's remarks that the case appeared to involve more drunken "idiocy" than murder, and that it appeared to be more of a manslaughter case. Prosecutors tried unsuccessfully to have Aldrich removed from the case and opposed Lessley's jury-waiver request, saying it required their approval.

In a dissenting opionin, Justice Lorie Skjervin Gildea said that she was concerned that Aldrich had abused his power and that justice would not be served. Again, the Strib:

Gildea wrote that she was troubled by the judge's actions, such as repeatedly questioning prosecutors' charging decisions, challenging the credibility of their witnesses, calling their evidence "limited" and "thin," and insulting the alleged victim.

Gildea said that a defendant's right to demand a bench trial is not unconditional, and that granting Lessley's request "risks undermining the public's trust and confidence in our judicial system."

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