Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Prosecution to Nowhere (The End - Really)

I really had no intention of blogging about the court proceedings that formally vacated and dismissed the fraud conviction of ex-Alaska senator Ted Stevens. But given what went on today, I really had to.

As expected, the district court granted the Government's motion to dismiss the case. In doing so, the court said (via TalkLeft):

In nearly 25 years on the bench, I've never seen anything approaching the mishandling and misconduct that I've seen in this case
But that, as they say, was not all. For one thing, the court has appointed a special prosecutor to review whether criminal contempt proceedings should begin against some of the prosecution team. For another, the court spoke more broadly than just the Stevens case:
At a hearing Tuesday morning in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on the government's motion to dismiss, Sullivan said Stevens' case was symptomatic of a larger trend of misconduct. The judge urged his colleagues around the country to enter exculpatory evidence orders at the outset of every criminal case, and to require that exculpatory material be turned over in a usable form.

The judge said Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. should train new and veteran prosecutors on the rules of evidence. He further suggested that President Barack Obama obtain the commitment of prospective U.S. attorneys to abide by these rules, and that the Senate Judiciary Committee push nominees on this point during confirmation hearings.
Ouch. I've blogged before about how the Government tends to get a lot of breaks that defense attorneys don't get when it comes to complying with procedural rules and whatnot, so it's good to see a judge hold their feet to the fire.

One only wonders if there is a "larger trend of misconduct" why it took such a botched prosecution of a high profile political figure for the court to jump on it. How many indigent folks, represented by my colleagues in DC rather than a big name firm, suffered similar fates?

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