Oct 21, 2015

Another Innocent Sent Behind Bars for Life, More Prosecutorial Misconduct

The expectation today is that innocents are sent to prison en masse and police and prosecutors routinely commit misconduct.

From the New York Times:

How many constitutional violations will it take before the New Orleans district attorney’s office is held to account for the culture of negligence and outright dishonesty that has pervaded it for decades?

In dozens of cases over the years, the office — largely under the command of former District Attorney Harry Connick, Sr. — failed to turn over material to defense lawyers that would have helped their clients.

And yet the Supreme Court refused to find any pattern of misconduct when it was confronted in 2011 with one of the most egregious examples in memory: the case of John Thompson, who spent 14 years on death row before a private investigator discovered that several prosecutors in Mr. Connick’s office had lied for years about a crime-lab report that ultimately led to Mr. Thompson’s exoneration.

In an astonishingly myopic opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas, the court threw out Mr. Thompson’s $14 million jury award on the grounds that he had shown a violation only in his own case, and not a pattern of misconduct, as the justices have required.

In reality, Mr. Thompson’s case was one of many in which New Orleans prosecutors disregarded their constitutional duties. Louisiana courts have overturned at least 36 convictions as a result of these violations. And those are just the cases where wrongdoing was uncovered. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy for unscrupulous prosecutors to hide evidence that might hinder a conviction.

That’s what happened in the latest example of misconduct out of New Orleans, where prosecutors only last month disclosed a 19-year-old memo that undercuts their case against Robert Jones, who was sentenced to life without parole for a 1992 kidnapping, robbery and rape that he denies committing.

Failing to turn over material to defense attorneys is called a Brady Violation, and as U.S. Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski notes, this misconduct is rampant. See, for example, Brady Violations and the explosive book, Licensed to Lie by Sidney Powell.

As Brady violations by prosecutors are rarely pursued, what inducements do prosecutors have to reveal exculpatory information, as required by law?

Truth? Justice? Ethics? You jest.

Truth and justice have no starring role in the American criminal justice system.

Ask Penny Brummer, an innocent woman pursued, persecuted and convicted of first degree murder in 1994 for being a lesbian. Subsequently, Madison (Wisconsin) police, Dane County Sheriff's investigators and Dane County District Attorney prosecutors (including former D.A. Brian Blanchard) and former Judge Patrick Fiedler found charging and convicting Ms. Brummer convenient (Protess, Huffington Post) (Lueders, Isthmus).

No evidence presented, no evidence needed.

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