When he instructs the jurors in the Dixon case, Circuit Judge Dennis M. Sweeney will likely tell them not to construe or infer anything from the defendant's silence. Mayor Sheila Dixon did not testify in her own defense against charges that she's a thief. This might have been the plan all along; having a defendant testify in any criminal case always comes with risks, and in this case they were probably big risks. But, still, the mayor of Baltimore doesn't speak? They say she took gift cards intended for needy children in her city, and she doesn't have an argument?
Oh, wait, there was an argument -- that her ex-boyfriend, developer Ronald Lipscomb, showered her with gifts, sometimes anonymously, and that the mayor, who was City Council president at the time, just assumed that those gift cards for Best Buy and Target that arrived in an unmarked envelope at City Hall a few years ago were meant for her -- and were from Mr. Lipscomb.
That was the story one of the mayor's lawyers, the experienced trial attorney Arnold Weiner, promised in opening statements just last week.
But Mr. Lipscomb is no longer part of the state's case against the mayor. The state did not summon Lipscomb to court, apparently confident they had proven theft involving gift cards from another developer, Patrick Turner, and from the city's annual Holly Trolley Tour. So, Judge Sweeney threw out criminal counts against Mayor Dixon involving Mr. Lipscomb. We never saw the mayor's ex-boyfriend in court. And the jury already has been instructed to disregard testimony and evidence linked to Mr. Lipscomb.
What the defense offered Tuesday and today were character witnesses, including the influential West Baltimore pastor Frank M. Reid III. They said they've known Sheila Dixon a long time and always have known her to be an honest person. That was the thrust of the defense.
Should the mayor have testified? Many defense attorneys will say no. But one, a lot more experienced with Baltimore Circuit Court juries than those at the mayor's trial table, said she should have. "She's going to need to [testify]. Absolutely, positively," Warren Brown told this newspaper a couple of weeks ago.
Despite what the dutiful and conscientious judge tells them tomorrow, the jurors, like many citizens of Baltimore, will almost surely wonder why the mayor of our city did not speak up against these tawdry accusations when she had the chance.