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Editorial: How to Curb Rogue Prosecutors

Nov. 11, 2011

Dallas Morning News

One thread running through many criminal exoneration cases in Texas involves prosecutors who failed their legal and moral duty to justice and fair play.

Too many of them appear to have been more interested in winning a conviction than airing the whole truth, even at the expense of someone's liberties.

Lawmakers need to unravel these tangled messes, then find ways to build safeguards against willful or sloppy miscarriage of justice in a district attorney's office.

Read on for the DMN's solution ...
 
Posts: 2418 | Location: TDCAA | Registered: March 08, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Shorter DMN:

Our ideas on how to take a underpaid and thankless job, and turn it into an underpaid and thankless job with a constant barrage of baseless lawsuits and writs from prisoners.
 
Posts: 394 | Location: Waco, Tx | Registered: July 24, 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Brody - don't we have that now?

After being licensed for 30 years, with 24 years (including Army and State) prosecution experience, I make about what a first year associate in a medium sized private firm makes. And my job is NOT 8-5! I have been thanked, rarely, but those uncommon expressions of gratitude from victims and their families have gone far to steel my resolve to do justice.

Luckily, I have never been sued. Knock wood. But I have had grievances filed for the generic offense of being "mean". Some grievances have just made me laugh and laugh, they are so ridiculous (and so thought the Bar). Of course my favorite grievance was for "conspiring" with the U.S. Attorney (whom I had never met) to enhance someone's punishment with a prior federal conviction (how dare I?).

I am appalled when I see a prosecutor withholding mitigating evidence. It is inexcusable. I have handed over loads of bullsh*t to the defense, knowing full well that the "mitigating evidence" was weak, or even manufactured. Usually the defense never presented it, knowing it was too weak. I have dismissed several cases where a competent defense counsel brought evidence casting doubt on the client's guilt.

It IS about doing justice.

The bottom line is this: less than one (1%) per cent of all criminals are wrongfully convicted. Much less. The cases of wrongful conviction involving prosecutorial misconduct are, thankfully, few and far between. Most of us take our jobs and our oaths very seriously.

There is, again, no excuse for our colleagues who will win at all costs. The collective punishment we face for the sins of the few, however, is enough.
 
Posts: 218 | Location: The Border | Registered: April 08, 2011Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Let the People say Amen...

From another 30 year prosecutor.

Lisa L. Peterson
Nolan County Attorney
 
Posts: 736 | Location: Sweetwater TX | Registered: January 30, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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�The prosecutor has more control over life, liberty and reputation than any other person in America. His discretion is tremendous�. �[T]he citizen�s safety lies in the prosecutor who tempers zeal with human kindness, who seeks truth and not victims, who serves the law and not factional purposes and who approaches his task with humility.�

-- Justice Robert H. Jackson �The Federal Prosecutor�, 24 J. Am. Jud. Soc. 18 (1940).
 
Posts: 130 | Location: Texas | Registered: October 12, 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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actually came from my father, who once told me, "the best defense counsel a defendant could ask for is a good prosecutor seeking justice".

Dad wasn't a lawyer.
 
Posts: 218 | Location: The Border | Registered: April 08, 2011Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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you had for a father!
 
Posts: 130 | Location: Texas | Registered: October 12, 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Jaded, bored, or lazy prosecutors are more of a problem than over zealous prosecutors.

Guilty defendants (which are the vast majority of defendants)usually benefit from such prosecutors, getting a better deal than they deserve, or not being prosecuted at all.

But innocent defendants can be harmed by such prosecutors because they are not willing to change their assumptions, they are not willing to check out the defendant's story because most all of the time the defendant's story is baloney.

We all need to fight the tendency to view our job as simply "moving cases," and to recognize that each case involves real people for whom the case is often very important.

Sometimes I think the cause of justice would be greatly served if more prosecutors got mugged, or had their house broken into, or had someone steal their car or cattle--it would tend to make them more zealous in seeking justice for the victims of crime. I also think it would be helpful if more of us were falsely accused of something, and our protestations of innocence were met with indifference. It would make us more inclined to listen to the defendant's story and to check it out. (I say I "sometimes" think this way. I don't want either of these things to happen to me.)

Crummy police work and too heavy caseloads probably cause more problems than anything else. Passing a bunch of restrictions on prosecutors will not increase the quality of prosecution, but will lower it. The bar's polling shows great dissatisfaction by attorneys in all specialties, with the exception of that group which is the poorest paid, namely prosecutors. "We few, we happy few," who chose to fight for Justice stay because of the satisfaction prosecution gives us. Load us up with a bunch of restrictions, and after awhile, all you'll have in prosecution are the drones, who couldn't care less.

[This message was edited by Terry Breen on 11-28-11 at .]
 
Posts: 686 | Location: Beeville, Texas, U.S.A. | Registered: March 22, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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For those who haven't already seen it ...

Setting the Record Straight on Prosecutorial Misconduct
 
Posts: 2418 | Location: TDCAA | Registered: March 08, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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So nice to know we really aren't "jack booted government thugs"........ Thanks, Shannon, and all who worked to set the record straight.
 
Posts: 218 | Location: The Border | Registered: April 08, 2011Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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It got the Texas Tribune's attention. You can probably predict the tenor of the commentary that followed.

Tribune story
 
Posts: 1233 | Location: Amarillo, Texas, USA | Registered: March 15, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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As if any of those commenters read the report!

Scott, you're an elected official, you know better than to "scroll down to troll town" like that.
 
Posts: 2418 | Location: TDCAA | Registered: March 08, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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It's like a car wreck. I can't help but look. Notably, I did avoid replying with any of the stock troll smackdowns like "maybe if you moved out of your mom's basement, you'd have a better world view" or the always-persuasive "morons." But who needs data when you can hurl insults and generalizations?
 
Posts: 1233 | Location: Amarillo, Texas, USA | Registered: March 15, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Has the same tenor as jail phone calls made by the defendant after sentencing.
 
Posts: 7860 | Location: Georgetown, Texas | Registered: January 25, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
Originally posted by MDK27:
actually came from my father, who once told me, "the best defense counsel a defendant could ask for is a good prosecutor seeking justice".

Dad wasn't a lawyer.


This is what the Citizens of the State expect and what Defendants deserve and what taxpayers and voters of Cities, Counties and States pay for.

While there is much injustice due to poorly written criminal laws that lead to unfair application of law by Law Enforcement, local Judges and City, County and State Prosecutors; there is also failure of Appeals Courts to equally apply the Statutes. This, IMO further shows the Statutes are poorly written, poorly litigated by the lower courts and IMO the Appeals Courts are a failure.
 
Posts: 12 | Location: sugar land, texas, united states | Registered: July 14, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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