Friday, February 20, 2009

You don't have to be a lawyer to know that when a judge says

"That was a court order, that wasn't a request," he said. "Is the Department of Justice taking court orders seriously these days?", it's an indication of a problem. Big problem.

This is on the trial of former Senator Ted Stevens. And if the article is correct, the Justice Department, at the least, acted badly.
The Justice Department this week took the highly unusual step of replacing the team handling posttrial litigation in the case. This followed last week's bizarre turn, when the chief of the public integrity section at Justice, William Welch, and his deputy, Brenda Morris -- the federal prosecutors who won the Stevens conviction -- were held in contempt of court.
Read that again. The 'chief of the public integrity section' and' his deputy', held in contempt. That's not the result of a slight error, I wouldn't think; that's the result of deliberately screwing around. And that's bad.

Those 33 documents relate to a complaint filed December 2 by one of the two FBI agents assigned to the case. Chad Joy claimed prosecutors covered up evidence and tried to keep a witness from testifying. He also said his partner, Mary Beth Kepner, had an unspecified "inappropriate relationship" with the state's star witness, Bill Allen, and other potential witnesses.
During the trial, Judge Sullivan had also admonished the prosecution for failing to share documents with the defense and redacting exculpatory passages from witness transcripts. Under the so-called Brady rule, Justice isn't obliged to share everything. But in a high-profile case prosecutors usually err on the side of absolute disclosure.

First off, I didn't know about the 'Brady rule'; I thought the prosecution HAD to share exculpatory evidence with the defense. The fact that they don't bothers hell out of me. Second, the 'redacting exculpatory passages' crap: translation is "We found this evidence that shows the defendant may not be guilty so we hid it." Which is fairly disgusting, and ought to be flatly illegal. It comes across to people as "We now know this guy may well be innocent of the charges, but we'll try to cover that evidence up and get a conviction anyway." Which is the kind of crap that's caused people like me to have very little trust in the Justice Department anymore. A lot of other CJ agencies, for that matter.

No comments: