Archive for the 'prosecutorial misconduct' Category

Former DA Jailed for Hiding Evidence to Secure Conviction

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

Former Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson was released on $7,500 bail for charges relating to violating state law and acting in contempt of court by lying to a trial judge. Anderson, who is now a state judge, purportedly lied to a trial judge in a murder case decades ago in order to secure a conviction.  The convicted man, Michael Morton, served almost 25 years in prison before being exonerated. Anderson had intentionally concealed two items of evidence that would have helped prove Mr. Morton’s innocence.

District Judge Louis Sterns said of Anderson, “This court cannot think of a more intentionally harmful act than a prosecutor’s conscious choice to hide mitigating evidence so as to create an uneven playing field for a defendant facing a murder charge and a life sentence,”and ruled that there was probable cause to support the charges against Anderson.

Prior to issuing his ruling, Sturns apologized to Mr. Morton on behalf of the state’s judges, which hardly makes up for the 25 years of life Mr. Morton lost as the result of wrongful incarceration. Sturns also issued a show-cause order demanding Anderson to appear in court for a criminal contempt citation. Anderson could face a $500 fine and 6 months in prison if convicted.

Anderson will appeal on statute of limitations grounds (more here).

While it is horrifying enough that this kind of thing even occurred, equally concerning is the fact that a dishonest, immoral, and power hungry prosecutor eventually became a state judge. Decades passed before anyone discovered the gravity of his past actions and pursued punitive measures. One can only imagine how many other innocent people he was convicted, and what other misdeeds Anderson has engaged in as both prosecutor, and now a judge.

Of course, it may also be entirely due to happenstance that he was ever caught in the first place, and it is very possible there are prosecutors and/or judges like him in court systems all over the country who do the exact same thing, repeatedly, and get away with it.

Such is the inherent problem of perpetuating a justice system wherein people lack choices. The system as is is one in which people are forced to fund the “justice” system even when the judges are corrupt, the prosecutors are liars, and completely innocent people rot away most of their lives in prison.

It is no surprise that when people have no alternative, and must fund the current system, that the employees within are not responsive to consumer demands.

Former DA Jailed for Hiding Evidence to Secure Conviction is a post from Cop Block - Badges Don't Grant Extra Rights

NH Supreme Court Accepts Ademo’s Appeal and Michael Valentine’s Prosecutorial Misconduct

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

A writer who would prefer to remain anonymous submitted the following via CopBlock.org’s ‘Submit a Post’ tab.

According to the NH Supreme Court website Ademo’s appeal was accepted on October 26, 2012. See here.

This means that the NH Supreme Court will actually hear Ademo’s appeal. Whether or not the court even reaches the 1st Amendment arguments, it’s likely Ademo’s conviction will be overturned. Brandon Ross has handled the appeal extremely well, and if you read it you’ll see that based on the clear meaning of the statute, Ademo at most was only guilty of a misdemeanor.

Here’s the text of the wiretapping statute.

“570-A:2 Interception and Disclosure of Telecommunication or Oral Communications Prohibited. –
I. A person is guilty of a class B felony if, except as otherwise specifically provided in this chapter or without the consent of all parties to the communication, the person:

(a) Willfully intercepts, endeavors to intercept, or procures any other person to intercept or endeavor to intercept, any telecommunication or oral communication;

(b) Willfully uses, endeavors to use, or procures any other person to use or endeavor to use any electronic, mechanical, or other device to intercept any oral communication when:

(1) Such device is affixed to, or otherwise transmits a signal through, a wire, cable, or other like connection used in telecommunication, or

(2) Such device transmits communications by radio, or interferes with the transmission of such communication, or

(3) Such use or endeavor to use (A) takes place on premises of any business or other commercial establishment, or (B) obtains or is for the purpose of obtaining information relating to the operations of any business or other commercial establishment; or

(c) Willfully discloses, or endeavors to disclose, to any other person the contents of any telecommunication or oral communication, knowing or having reason to know that the information was obtained through the interception of a telecommunication or oral communication in violation of this paragraph; or

(d) Willfully uses, or endeavors to use, the contents of any telecommunication or oral communication, knowing or having reason to know that the information was obtained through the interception of a telecommunication or oral communication in violation of this paragraph.

I-a. A person is guilty of a misdemeanor if, except as otherwise specifically provided in this chapter or without consent of all parties to the communication, the person knowingly intercepts a telecommunication or oral communication when the person is a party to the communication or with the prior consent of one of the parties to the communication, but without the approval required by RSA 570-A:2, II(d).”

Essentially, the statute reduces the crime to a misdemeanor for a person who is a party to the communication (i.e. a participant). Of course this last little bit was left out of the jury instructions that Michael Valentine submitted to the judge and ultimately went to the jury. This omission was either gross incompetence on the part of Michael Valentine in that he couldn’t be bothered to read the entirety of statute, or intentional prosecutorial misconduct and a violation of NHBA rules of professional conduct specifically, 3.3(a)(1) and 3.8(a).

Knowing this, one can’t help but realize how dripping with arrogance and hypocrisy Michael Valentine’s closing statement was. As he railed Ademo for asking the jury to nullify his charge, hammering home the point that we must all obey the law, he had already submitted jury instructions that omitted a relevant part of the law so he could secure a felony conviction. This was a violation of his professional obligation as an attorney and as a prosecutor.

 

Ademo NH Supreme Court Accepts Ademos Appeal and Michael Valentines Prosecutorial Misconduct

 

 

NH Supreme Court Accepts Ademo’s Appeal and Michael Valentine’s Prosecutorial Misconduct is a post from Cop Block - Badges Don't Grant Extra Rights

The cognitive dissonance of prosecutors

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Prosecutors have repeatedly made the news recently, embarrassing themselves along with their police buddies –

Las Vegas Deputy District Attorney David Schubert resigned on April 1, 2011 after he  was arrested on suspicion of buying cocaine. He was pulled over in Las Vegas with cocaine in the car, a semi-automatic 9mm pistol, four ammunition magazines, and two boxes of bullets (more here). Ironically, he was the same prosecutor who had recently prosecuted Bruno Mars and Paris Hilton when they were arrested for cocaine possession.

Though it’s no surprise, it appears some prosecutors, like police, harbor beliefs of self-importance and special privilege, and will attempt to get away with whatever they can, while participating in a system that regularly incarcerates and abuses ordinary people for doing the very same things.

Even if they don’t seek to get away with crimes they regularly punish others for, there is still a severe lack of critical thinking on the part of many prosecutors. I know of a prosecutor who reportedly did all kinds of drugs and drank frequently in her earlier days, but allegedly cleaned up her act after becoming a prosecutor. So, how exactly does that work? Does she believe she used to be a terrible person and should have been imprisoned, like she now does to others? And if she escaped deserving punishment and is permitted to roam freely in society, how can she be in the position to judge others and incarcerate them for behaving in the exact same manner she once did? If she truly believed in the merits of her work, she should send herself to jail to serve the interests of justice.

From personal experience, I have observed that the cognitive dissonance of some prosecutors is puzzling, in retrospect (I say retrospect because I have at points in my life been guilty of something similar).  I have met people who firmly believed in marijuana decriminalization, yet thoroughly enjoyed employment as a prosecutor in the narcotics department. I have met a man who said he was staunchly against the death penalty, but argued aggressively for imposition of the death penalty in a case because he believed it was his job to enforce the law, not make it.

The argument is that for government to function appropriately, there must be rigid adherence to separation of powers — enforcers cannot and should not “take the law into their own hands” based on some subjective idea of morality. I understand this reasoning well. One time, I showed up to an  interview for a DA internship. The interview and initial questioning was normal for a few minutes. Then, to my surprise, the DA interviewer pulled a copy of the most recent edition of my school newspaper from his file and set it before me. This particular edition had a picture of a marijuana leaf on the cover, featuring an article entitled Legalize It! written by me. He said that while he agreed with the arguments I had set forth in the article, he wanted to know how I would fare if I was assigned to the narcotics division as a DA intern.

Having been trained to think on my feet, I gave him the answer I knew he wanted to hear — separation of powers, enforcement versus legislation, how it’s not the job of the enforcer to impose their own morality on the law, etc. However, the more I thought about the reasoning, the less it made sense. It required a whole lot of mental gymnastics to justify participating in drug enforcement and actively working to incarcerate non-violent individuals for some alleged greater good of preserving “order” and the integrity of the legal system.

In another case earlier this year (In Re: Price), prosecutor Ronald Bass, a California Attorney General (AG) went to a cafe where a juror worked as a cook. He stated he was not allowed to have any contact with the juror. After he was done eating, he left a tip (of a normal amount). The court’s opinion reveals that as he was doing this, “Bass told the bartender, McConkey, in a joking tone of voice, to ‘give this’ or ‘split this’ with Z.S. and ‘tell her to vote guilty.’” Bass, Johnson, and bartender McConkey apparently all laughed at this remark, and “McConkey understood it as a joke.” The Supreme Court of California examined whether “the prosecutor in this case improperly tampered with a sitting juror by sending her alcoholic drinks and money, and telling her to return a guilty verdict,” and decided the answer was no. The defendant was sentenced to death (read quick summary here).

In an even more disturbing case, the Supreme Court vacated a $15 million dollar jury award for John Thompson, a man who spent 14 years on death row due to prosecutorial misconduct. Prosecutors mishandled exculpatory evidence, and even said to Thompson, “I’m going to fry you. You will die in the electric chair.” The jury learned that under District Attorney Harry Connick Sr.’s watch, prosecutors repeatedly engaged in misconduct and hid exculpatory evidence. As a result, Mr. Thompson was imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. The Supreme Court declared that prosecutors could not be liable to Thompson, strangely reasoning there was insufficient evidence of deficient training, although it would seem that withholding exculpatory evidence on its face is proof of deficient training. At any rate, the prosecutors were not held liable for their egregious actions.

Also in recent news, California prosecutors were found to have committed 130 instances of misconduct last year. Some of the instances of misconduct were so egregious they resulted in the reversals of 18 convictions (more here). The study attributed such abuses to lack of appropriate oversight, which probably will never be addressed by the legal system, since the Supreme Court is not willing to hold prosecutors accountable for their actions even when they hide evidence.

This examples ware deplorable, but serve to explain some common attitudes of prosecutors. Preservation of the legal system is key. It’s about procedure. It’s a game or competition they have to win. It’s prestige. It’s jokes. But it is certainly not about morality or ethics.

The cognitive dissonance of prosecutors is a post from Cop Block - "Something must be done about vengeance, a badge, and a gun"

USA Today investigates misconduct by Dept. of Justice

Saturday, December 11th, 2010
For the past two months, USA Today reporters Brad Heath and Kevin McCoy have been running an informative series of articles called “Justice in the Balance” which describe their findings about the nature and extent of misconduct by Department of Justice prosecutors. According to their statement of methodology, the two journalists used legal databases to [...]

Part of the Problem

Monday, July 7th, 2008

If it was indeed left by a prosecutor, this comment at the Volokh Conspiracy speaks volumes.