After two months of testimony about yachts, butlers, private investigators and ex-girlfriends, the corruption trial of former state Sen. Vince Fumo finished 2008 yesterday with evidence of pinched power tools and a courtroom argument about media coverage of the case.
The trial resumes Monday and is expected to continue for several more weeks.
Yesterday, defense attorney David Shapiro argued that media coverage of the trial has been unprecedented, including not only news stories and editorials, but "things like a blog, where the reporter sits in the back of the courtroom every day and in real time gives his spin of what is happening."
The Inquirer has maintained a blog of testimony most days on Philly.com.
Jurors have been instructed not to read or watch news accounts of the case, but Shapiro said that the coverage is so pervasive that Judge Ronald Buckwalter should consider questioning each juror about their awareness of media reports.
Prosecutors said that coverage is actually less intensive than in some past high-profile trials. Judge Buckwalter said that the main difference in coverage this time is the blog, which he didn't seem to find troubling.
"I thought it's a good service for people who want to keep up to date on what's going on in the trial," Buckwalter said, "without any of the opinions that are sometimes offered or slants that are sometimes offered in [news]paper articles."
Buckwalter said that he'd consider whether any special questions or instructions for jurors are necessary.
Later yesterday, a supervisor for the South Philadelphia nonprofit that Fumo is accused of stealing from took the witness stand to review lists of past purchases on the organization's credit cards.
Tracy Burris said that he supervised neighborhood cleanup and maintenance efforts for Citizens Alliance for Better Neighborhoods, and would know about supplies legitimately purchased on the organization's credit cards.
Prosecutors showed Burris records of scores of purchases, including power tools, DVDs, a turkey fryer and a $449 barbecue grill. Tracy said that he hadn't purchased the items, didn't know why Citizens Alliance would need them and hadn't seen the goods at the organization's maintenance shop.
Prosecutors say that 900 charges on the group's credit cards, totaling more than $75,000, mostly represent purchases of goods for Fumo's personal use.
Defense attorneys have argued that Fumo was entitled to some compensation from the group as its primary fundraiser and benefactor.