The fate of Lewes pediatrician Earl Bradley will not be decided by a jury of his peers but by a New Castle County Superior Court judge.
Bradley has waived his right to a jury trial and will instead have a bench trial, presided over by Judge William C. Carpenter. The trial is scheduled to begin Wednesday, June 1.
Carpenter said the case could be moved back to Sussex County, because the reason for moving the trial to New Castle County was a concern about the necessary size of the jury pool. The judge did not say when he would make a decision on a trial venue, only that he would alert the prosecution and defense if the venue is changed.
Bradley, dressed in a teal prison jumpsuit but looking more fit and trim than he did at his evidence suppression hearing in August, appeared in the New Castle County Superior Courtroom to formally agree to the bench trial, answering “yes” when asked by Carpenter whether he is knowingly consenting to having a bench trial.
Carpenter said a mental examination of Bradley, requested by Department of Justice prosecutors, would no longer be needed because Bradley’s defense team will not use “guilty but mentally ill” as a defense. The defense also will not use an insanity defense.
Both the prosecution and defense are still under a gag order imposed by Carpenter and would not discuss the case with the news media.
Former Superior Court Judge Bill Lee said among the reasons Bradley may have chosen to have a bench trial is that video images, allegedly showing Bradley sexually assaulting patients and which Carpenter has deemed admissible in court, may be of such a nature that they could overwhelm a jury’s ability to be fair.
“The feeling is, a judge who has more experience with criminal law and has seen, certainly, crimes of an unspeakable nature, would not be as overwhelmed by this evidence,” Lee said.
State prosecutors agreed to Bradley’s request for a bench trial. Lee said some reasons the state would agree to waive a jury trial is less room for errors, lower costs and shortening the length of the trial.
“I think the state is pretty secure with the evidence it has,” Lee said. “At this particular point, I think the state is looking for the most effective way to go forward, which will take up the least amount of time, create the least potential for error and is most likely to spare the victim children the trauma of a jury trial.”
Lee said although every trial is different, a bench trial would likely take half the time it takes for a jury trial, in part because of the time saved by eliminating jury selection. In the 1998 Thomas Capano murder case, which Lee presided over, the trial took 17 weeks.
“It depends on the amount of evidence and the complexity and the nature of the defense,” Lee said.
Bradley is accused of rape and exploitation involving more than 100 of his child patients. He is awaiting trial at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna.