Lakin's lucky coincidence

By The Madison County Record | Apr 30, 2005

Did juror Drexel Harvey feel bias in favor of his former college roommate’s son?

The better question is why Madison County should even have to ask?

We learned last week that Mr. Harvey, one of twelve jurors who decided to light up Ford Motor Company for $43 million because it couldn’t make an indestructible car, told the Madison County Court during voir dire that yes, he did once share a room at SIU Edwardsville with Thomas Lakin—- father of plaintiff’s attorney Brad who would be trying the case.

Yet despite his past Lakin relationship, Mr. Harvey insisted he could still be fair.

Judge Andy Matoesian, securing justice for the voters of Madison County, thought it prudent to take his word for it.

Bad idea.

We aren’t prompted to suggest this by Mr. Harvey’s behavior as a juror. For all we know, he handled his duty like a model citizen.

But consider the scene set by this lack of judgment-- and the compromising position into which it thrust Mr. Harvey.

Charming multimillionaire and local plaintiff’s attorney legend Tom Lakin sits in the gallery of courtroom 351, proudly watching his son try perhaps the biggest case of his career,.

And Harvey— who once thought so much of Tom that he lived with him-- sits steps away in the jury box, pondering the son’s argument versus that of a Michigan auto giant.

Can you be fair now, Mr. Harvey?

We elect judges to prevent these situations from happening in the first place. That’s because the appearance of bias or a conflict-of-interest is well enough to sink our justice system’s credibility. Madison County citizens will read of the “roommate juror” and wonder how they might get a fair shake in their courts.

Judge Matoesian will torture a technicality, arguing that he had no ‘cause’ to prevent Mr. Harvey from serving on the Ford jury. But common sense serves us better.

A county 260,000 strong couldn’t put together a jury devoid of college roommates?

Brad Lakin is a pretty lucky guy. Or this is just another pro-plaintiff coincidence in the courts of Madison County.

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