Emotional Appeal

By: Kara Tsuboi
By: Kara Tsuboi

Next month, Jim Studer will be mourning the 11th anniversary of his brother's murder. At the trial of Tom's accused killer ten years ago, Jim and his parents wore buttons over their hearts--showing this picture of Tom.

"It was comforting for us go have that picture of him. It was kind of like having his spirit there with us," says Jim Studer.

Just last Friday, two of the three judges on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel, said those buttons might have influenced the jury. And so, they threw out the murder conviction of Mathew Musladin.

"By allowing the individuals into the courtroom, by wearing these special buttons, that it did interfere with the ability to have an impartial jury," says Bill Dressel, the President of the Reno-based National Judicial College.

He says trial judges have to be sensitive to what comes into their courtrooms...and know that a sign of support can sometimes be construed as outside evidence.

Jim Studer says there shouldn't be any confusion. To him, it was just a button: "Juries are always told to look at the facts presented. They're not supposed to be judging on that (the buttons). They're supposed to be judging on the merit of the case."

The Studer family and the prosecuting attorney will now ask the entire 9th Circuit to review the case...and could potentially appeal it to the Supreme Court.

"If we have to go through this trial again, it opens up old wounds."


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