Articles Posted in Prosecutor problems

Remember Napue v. Illinois, 360 U.S. 264 (1959)?  Here’s the Justia summary.

At petitioner’s trial in a state court in which he was convicted of murder, the principal state witness, an accomplice then serving a 199-year sentence for the same murder, testified in response to a question by the Assistant State’s Attorney that he had received no promise of consideration in return for his testimony. The Assistant State’s Attorney had in fact promised him consideration, but he did nothing to correct the witness’ false testimony. The jury was apprised, however, that a public defender had promised “to do what he could” for the witness.

The failure of the prosecutor to correct the testimony of the witness which he knew to be false denied petitioner due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 360 U. S. 265-272.

(a) The established principle that a State may not knowingly use false testimony to obtain a tainted conviction does not cease to apply merely because the false testimony goes only to the credibility of the witness. Pp. 360 U. S. 269-270.

(b) The fact that the jury was apprised of other grounds for believing that the witness may have had an interest in testifying against petitioner was not sufficient to turn what was otherwise a tainted trial into a fair one. Pp. 360 U. S. 270-271.

Watch and listen to oral argument in Baca v. Adams.  For the meat, you may want to advance to minute 17, although you get a better understanding from starting at the beginning.

A point on the video – why is this guy arguing for the State.  Where is his boss?  This guy was put up there as a matter of failure in leadership.  Surely the attorney general and his supervisor had to know this case may go difficult.

If you didn’t have time to view, something of a decent summary can be found in the New York Observer.

A magistrate and the California Court of Appeal found that California deputy district attorney Spira lied under oath, testifying against a criminal defendant and in support of a lying “jailhouse snitch” who was placed on the witness stand in apparent subornation of perjury. Making matters worse, the California Attorney General fought “tooth and nail” to keep the transcript of the relevant hearing from the California Court of Appeal.

Read more at here

Why is this relevant – well the co-accused’s testimony and the complaining witness’s testimony in a 120?  To what effect is it a matter of direct evidence that a complaining witness received a transfer as a result of making a sexual assault complaint?  What about the TC who denies the complaining witness has received a benefit as a result of the complaint.

The military SVC programs have been ongoing for a little while.  So some signs of the good and bad are starting to show.  It is too early to tell if the issues are start-up issues or long term fixes, or cavitations or super-cavitations.  One aspect to be expected and not wholly rejected is alleged victims having more of a say in what happens in a case.  But how far can a victim and the SVC go in dictating what happens.

My good friend Dew_Process brought an Indiana professional discipline case to my attention and it is worth noting.  The issue for the prosecutor In re Flatt-Moore, No. 30S00-0911-DI-535 (Ind. January 12, 2012), was an allegation that she surrendered her discretion as a prosecutor during pretrial negotiations, to the victims money demands. The chief prosecutor had an established policy that they would not agree to a pretrial agreement unless both the police and victims agreed.

During a disciplinary hearing the IO found that the policy did not require or give the victim the right to dictate any restitution amount.  The IO found that the prosecutor had engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.  That is found in Rule 8.4(d) of the Indiana rules of professionalism. The military Services follow the ABA Model Rules of professionalism, as published in Service regulations.  The ABA rule 8.4(d) is the same as that in Indiana. The Indiana court found the prosecutor had erred and violated the rule, and the issued a public opinion.

Interesting . . . The court agreed that there is largely unfettered discretion between the parties to negotiate an agreement so long as it does not violate the law, in not unconstitutional, and is truly voluntary.  And the court found that the agreement reached in the particular case was not unlawful and was approved. The issue was – for the prosecutor – that they gave all the power and negotiating decisions to the victim.  So how does that translate to a military sexual assault prosecution? You and your military defense lawyer are free to negotiate a pretrial agreement for just about anything.  The Supreme Court itself has stated that an accused can waive fundamental constitutional requirements of a trial.  United States v. Mezzaatto, 513 U.S. 196 (1995).

There are some matters that cannot be bargained away and the military appellate courts have been alert to unconscionable terms in a pretrial agreement.  For example, by executive order the President has declared that certain matters may not be bargained away.  R.C.M. 705(c)(1)(B).  An acceptable term is restitution.  As a military defense lawyer representing clients prosecuted under the UCMJ, I have negotiated such terms, including in sexual offense cases.

There is no “punishment” of restitution in the current UCMJ or Manual for Courts-Martial.  That doesn’t preclude creative lawyering.

The Indiana Supreme Court agreed that crime victims have and should have substantial input into the pretrial negotiation process, but they don’t and shouldn’t have is a veto.  To allow a veto usurps the prosecutor’s discretion to act on behalf of the state and the people. So if you and your military defense counsel are trying to negotiate a pretrial agreement and the prosecutor tells you that the CA would be willing but the victim says no, and they are bound by that no, mention this case to them. The interesting issue is whether you can make a pretrial motion on the issue – not sure about that.  Or do you take a deal and then bring it up with the military judge when she is doing the on the record inquiry as to the voluntariness of the deal.  For samples of prior appellate cases dealing with pretrial agreements, check here at the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF), or talk with your military defense lawyer.  It is far better to enter negotiations informed, rather than have a potential problem on appeal.

Some prosecutors get carried away with their mission and over over-egg their argument.  In a winnable case it shouldn’t be necessary.  If you’ve got a bad case, but get a conviction it may lead to reversal.  Here’s another example.

A Connecticut appeals court decided to send a message to a prosecutor accused of appealing to jurors’ emotions when it reversed the conviction of a man accused of killing a bar owner in 1998 and ordered a new trial.

The appeals court opinion (PDF) said Assistant State’s Attorney Terence Mariani Jr. of Waterbury made improper arguments in the trial of Victor Santiago, as well as in previous cases, the Associated Press and the Connecticut Law Tribune report. “We believe that nothing short of reversal will have the effect of deterring him,” the court said.

h/t ABA journal