Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Prosecutorial Misconduct with Ted Stevens

I have mixed feelings about the Ted Stevens case. I am convinced he's corrupt, but I also think you can't just skip due process and convict just because you think someone is guilty.

I am convinced there was horrible misconduct by prosecutors, and I am always happy to see this result in criminal charges against prosecutors who do that, but it is sad that this only seems to happen when a defendant is a rich person with strong political connections. (And probably white as well, though this is more likely because most people who are rich with strong political connections are white - being white sure won't help you against prosecutorial misconduct if you are white but poor and have no connections).

So it annoys me that much is being made of how horrible this is without placing it in the context of just how routine prosecutorial misconduct is. And how it almost never is punished. It also almost never results in a reversed conviction.

So I have mixed feelings about this. When the same sort of attention and outrage is placed about misconduct done against poor defendants on a routine basis, I'll take heart. Right now, though all the right words and fury is there about prosecutorial misconduct, I think this will quickly fade, be seen as an anomoly by the press, and the routine crushing of defendants will quietly continue in courts across the nation.


S said...

Not one of my clients have ever gotten this kind of relief (or any relief) when we have discovered Brady violations. (To the non-lawyers, a Brady violation is when the prosecutor fails to turn over exculpatory evidence.)

Of course, my clients are all indigent defendants. They have no influence anywhere and nobody cares how unjustly their cases were handled.

It is heartening to note, though, that this same judge also dressed-down federal prosecutors in a Gitmo case. He even threatened sanctions, including prison time. So at least one federal judge is fed up with the rampant hiding of evidence. Maybe that will trickle down to state courts?

DBB said...

What he's doing with Gitmo does hearten me, but he is still just one judge and Gitmo is also an extreme example - people locked up for years with no charges or any contact with anyone, who may be completely innocent and have no evidence at all against them. That still doesn't translate well to your ordinary defendants.