We often hear of prosecution misconduct going unchallenged or undisciplined. Two events this week are noteworthy though in efforts to hold prosecutors accountable.
He brought a civil rights suit against the prosecutor on his case, John Norsetter, and two crime lab workers, Karen Daily and Dan Campbell. All three sought to have Armstrong’s suit dismissed on immunity grounds, but the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed the trial judge’s refusal to grant that request:
“Armstrong alleges a shocking course of prosecutorial misconduct,” the court wrote. “According to the complaint, the prosecutor quickly fixated on Armstrong as the murderer and sought to build a case against him by any means necessary.
“Those means included destroying potentially exculpatory evidence from the crime scene, arranging for the highly suggestive hypnosis of an eyewitness, contriving suggestive show – ups for identification, and concealing a later confession from the true killer that was relayed by a person with no apparent motive to fabricate the report.
“Finally, the prosecutor enlisted state lab technicians to perform an inconclusive DNA test that consumed the last of a sample that could have proven Armstrong’s innocence and pointed to the true killer. If these allegations are true — and some are based on the state court’s factual findings — the prosecution of Armstrong was a single – minded pursuit of an innocent man that let the real killer to go free.”
On another front, I’m sure you have seen this reported in Slate.
Prosecutorial and police misconduct are often dismissed as just a few bad apples doing a few bad apple-ish things. But what happens when it’s entrenched and systemic and goes unchecked for years? That looks to be the case in Orange County, California, where the situation got so completely out of hand this spring that Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals issued an order disqualifying the entire Orange County District Attorney’s Office (that’s all 250 prosecutors) from continuing to prosecute a major death penalty case.