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It Takes a Great Prosecutor . . .

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July 13, 2007, 08:20
KSchaefer
It Takes a Great Prosecutor . . .
"Despite what you see on television, the chances of being convicted in a criminal case are extremely high. Grand juries are said to be willing to "indict a ham sandwich," and it's not uncommon for prosecution offices to have conviction rates of 90 percent or higher. Some prosecutors grow callous and cavalier about their role. When told that he had secured the death penalty against an innocent man, a Texas prosecutor once reportedly boasted that "any prosecutor can convict a guilty man; it takes a great prosecutor to convict an innocent man."

History is rife with such "great prosecutors" convicting the innocent to satisfy the public.

For the Full Article:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/22/AR2007062201654.html

I don't know if you all saw this already (the article is 3 weeks old), but I'm stunned. This story came to me via an alumni newsletter.
July 13, 2007, 08:29
JB
Jonathan Turley is a professor of law at George Washington University Law School. Pretty much tells you his level of actual experience in the courtroom.

Look, the Nifong incident created a media vacuum. We can stand around and complain, leaving it to law professors to pontificate, or we can offer our own explanation as to why this won't happen in Texas.

Taking the latter point of view, I recently contacted a local TV reporter and suggested she do a story on why a defendant would not be Nifonged in Williamson County. I was pleased with the result.

To watch, click here. I encourage you to make similar statements in your jurisdiction. You don't have to wait for a problem to do a story.

[This message was edited by JB on 07-13-07 at .]
July 13, 2007, 10:14
JAS
You have some sharp looking offices there in Williamson County, John.

I thought the law professor's article dissapointing--devoid of meaningful and intelligent contribution to the discussion, and largely designed to appeal to emotions. I guess I expected better.

JAS
July 13, 2007, 16:03
Mark Brunner
... that a great prosecutor is one who can manage to get an indictment using a statute that isn't even in force yet.
July 13, 2007, 16:29
Doran Williams
Tell that to the innocent people in Tulia who were prosecuted, John.

And no, Turley being a professor doesn't tell us all we need to know about his courtroom experience. We need to know more. Can you check it out for us please, and present us with facts about his courtroom experience rather than snide innuendo????
July 13, 2007, 17:16
JB
Turley's superficial attack on prosecutors speaks for itself. It is a transparent bit of sophistry that takes advantage of a single example to create the false appearance of a widespread problem. Mr. Turley seems to think that his position as a law professor is cover enough to get the reader to believe he knows what he is talking about. I would think it would be his burden to show us that he has actually appeared in courtrooms across the United States to such a degree that he has collected immense personal knowledge of that which he speaks. That he waited to ride the coattails of the Nifong media storm before alerting the public to his fictional drama suggests he is more into self promotion than fact.
July 13, 2007, 23:13
JSH
Turley's article is ridiculous. Of course there are bad apples like Nifong and the Tulia DA, but the vast majority of DAs are working hard to make sure that justice is done in each and every case. His bull**** article just erodes the public trust in our system of justice and makes it harder for us to do our jobs.
July 13, 2007, 23:54
Doran Williams
Is of the same cloth with the attacks on liberals, science, and certain opinions of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals that appear almost daily on this forum: They all resort to shameful hyperbole, innuendo, ad hominem arguments, and unabashed exaggertion to make political and doctrinaire points. The liberal bashers on this site have much more in common with Turley than they would ever admit to.

I tend to agree with JB that Turley is using his position as a law professor as "cover." But individuals who may or may not be good lawyers, but who manage to get elected to the position of District or County prosecutor in Texas do the same thing. They expound on various subjects concerning the public welfare as though they are experts. Law professors are second only to judges, and barely ahead of prosecutors in a close third place, in believing and saying that they, and they almost alone, know exactly what is good for society.

But I don't agree that Turley has some kind of "burden" "to show us that he has actually appeared in courtrooms across the United States to such a degree that he has collected immense personal knowledge of that which he speaks." Law professors, just as other academics, rely upon researchers under their guidance to gather data for them. JB seems to have the burden here, to demonstrate that Turley's conclusions are factually wrong, since that is what JB is claiming. This seems only fair, given that JB's statement that "this won't happen in Texas" is of dubious accuracy.

Why don't you write to him, JB, or email him, and put him to his proof?
July 14, 2007, 00:16
JSH
quote:
Originally posted by Doran Williams:
Is of the same cloth with the attacks on liberals, science, and certain opinions of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals that appear almost daily on this forum: They all resort to shameful hyperbole, innuendo, ad hominem arguments, and unabashed exaggertion to make political and doctrinaire points. The liberal bashers on this site have much more in common with Turley than they would ever admit to.

I tend to agree with JB that Turley is using his position as a law professor as "cover." But individuals who may or may not be good lawyers, but who manage to get elected to the position of District or County prosecutor in Texas do the same thing. They expound on various subjects concerning the public welfare as though they are experts. Law professors are second only to judges, and barely ahead of prosecutors in a close third place, in believing and saying that they, and they almost alone, know exactly what is good for society.

But I don't agree that Turley has some kind of "burden" "to show us that he has actually appeared in courtrooms across the United States to such a degree that he has collected immense personal knowledge of that which he speaks." Law professors, just as other academics, rely upon researchers under their guidance to gather data for them. JB seems to have the burden here, to demonstrate that Turley's conclusions are factually wrong, since that is what JB is claiming. This seems only fair, given that JB's statement that "this won't happen in Texas" is of dubious accuracy.

Why don't you write to him, JB, or email him, and put him to his proof?



In one breath you say that Turley "resort[s] to shameful hyperbole, innuendo, ad hominem arguments, and unabashed exaggertion to make political and doctrinaire points," and in another you say that "JB seems to have the burden here, to demonstrate that Turley's conclusions are factually wrong." How can you disprove outrageous and baseless statements such as "When told that he had secured the death penalty against an innocent man, a Texas prosecutor once reportedly boasted that 'any prosecutor can convict a guilty man; it takes a great prosecutor to convict an innocent man'."

That ridiculous statement can neither be proven nor disproven. The article is a bloviating rant akin to Bill O'Reilly's previous claims that Texas was "weak on sex offenders." Turley relies on absolutely zero research and analysis. Instead he uses a couple of high profile examples to excoriate our entire profession.
July 14, 2007, 08:32
Martin Peterson
The article cites concrete historical examples. I do not know whether they are accurately assessed or exactly what would be required to present an accurate assessment.

Persons have been wrongfully convicted or prosecuted. But, I think a very small percentage for the political or other gain of individual prosecutors. The line between zealous advocacy and injustice will not be resolved on the pages of the Washington Post regardless of who speaks or his background and proclaimed breadth of knowledge/experience.

Each prosecutor draws that line with each case. "Prosecutors who struggle to outdo one another as camera-ready, take-no-prisoners avengers of justice" describes very few prosecutors and very few cases. Sometimes sensationalism is a valid tool to draw our attention, sometimes it is distracting hyperbole. I might be tempted to use the latter if it meant the opportunity offered by the Post.
July 14, 2007, 09:43
Doran Williams
Faculty website.

According to an entry on Wikipedia, Turley agreed with the impeachment of President Clinton.

Education: B.A. University of Chicago; J.D., Northwestern University

Biographical Sketch: Jonathan Turley is a nationally recognized legal scholar who has written extensively in areas ranging from constitutional law to legal theory to tort law. After a stint at Tulane Law School, Professor Turley joined the GW Law faculty in 1990, and in 1998, became the youngest chaired professor in the school�s history.

He is the founder and executive director of the Project for Older Prisoners (POPS). He has written more than three dozen academic articles that have appeared in a variety of leading law journals including those of Cornell, Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, and Northwestern Universities, among others. He most recently completed a three-part study of the historical and constitutional evolution of the military system.

Professor Turley has served as counsel in some of the most notable cases in the last two decades, including his representation of the Area 51 workers at a secret air base in Nevada; the nuclear couriers at Oak Ridge, Tennessee; the Rocky Flats grand jury in Colorado; Dr. Eric Foretich, the husband in the Elizabeth Morgan custody controversy; and four former U.S. Attorney Generals during the Clinton impeachment litigation. Professor Turley also has served as counsel in a variety of national security and terrorism cases, and has been ranked as one of the top 10 lawyers handling military cases.

He has served as a consultant on homeland security and constitutional issues, and is a frequent witness before the House and Senate on constitutional and statutory issues as well as tort reform legislation. He also is a nationally recognized legal commentator; he ranked 38th in the top 100 most cited �public intellectuals� in a recent study by Judge Richard Posner and was found to be the second most cited law professor in the country.

He is a member of the USA Today board of contributors and the recipient of the �2005 Single Issue Advocate of the Year� � the annual opinion award for the Aspen Institute and The Week magazine. More than 400 of his articles on legal and policy issues regularly appear in national newspapers. He also has worked as the CBS and NBC legal analyst, respectively, during national controversies.
July 14, 2007, 10:25
JB
His experience as a prosecutor seems a bit thin. Sounds to me like he is a mouthpiece for the liberal agenda. Hope that doesn't upset you.

Turley was against Alito for the SC: click here.

Turley was against Roberts for the SC: click here.

Here is an article that actually refers to Turley as a "liberal law professor" (so it must be true, right?): click here.

Here is an article that says Turley is a "self-described liberal law professor": click here.

Here is a thread that says Turley is a "self-confessed rabid liberal": click here.

One commentator refers to Turley as "absolutely my favorite liberal on the planet": click here.

But, hey, you don't have to believe me. Just Google "Jonathan Turley" and "liberal." Seems the two go together.

To include some contrast, though, one senator simply thinks Turley is a "squirrel": click here. Not literally, I assume.

He is a flame-throwing liberal that seems to delight in provoking conservative public officials. That doesn't make him authoritative or correct. And, no, it is not my job to prove his accusations are not supported. Last time I checked, the one making declarations or accusations has the burden of proof. For prosecutors, we take that burden seriously. We prove things beyond a reasonable doubt. When we fail to meet our burden, juries let the defendant go. Or appellate courts publish opinions explaining our shortcomings. Liberal law professors don't seem to have such limitations. More is the pity.

By the way, I suspect Mr. Doran Williams is a pretty nice guy and would buy us all a beer just to keep the conversation going. I also suspect he likes to jack up the tone on this web site to keep him entertained. Sometimes I do the same.

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July 14, 2007, 10:49
ML
I think the main point of the prosecutors who have weighed in thus far is that Professor Turley has been a law professor since 1990 and he can only come up with a half dozen examples across the country upon which he bases this searing title to his article- "Lots of Prosecutors Go Too Far. Most Get Away With It" And his 6 examples range all of the way back to 1913!!! Certainly, abuses occur (as they do in every facet of life) but it cannot seriously or credibly be argued that Nifong is anything but an anomaly among thousands of hard-working under-paid professionals who stand between the public and evil day in and day out. Also, many are overjoyed to point out Nifong's apparent idiocy but seem to gloss over the fact that he has been sternly dealt with (and rightfully so). Certainly, those of us who have undertaken to see that justice is done must be ever vigilant in doing everything humanly possible to insure that we do just that. But to paint all prosecutors with such a broad incredibly negative brush is simply irresponsible on the esteemed professor's part. May God forbid that myself or my family members are ever victimized by violent crime. But if it happens, it will be most reassuring when someone like JB shows up on the scene.
Btw, John, it looks like you did some research on the good professor. With my tongue placed firmly in my cheek, I must quote Festus Hagan from "Gunsmoke" who said, "I wouldn't slam a door that hard!"

[This message was edited by ML on 07-14-07 at .]
July 14, 2007, 11:41
JB
According to this authoritative website, the actual quote from Festus is, "That's harder than I'd slam a door." Click here for website.
July 14, 2007, 12:08
ML
"Btw, John, it looks like you did some research on the good professor. With my tongue placed firmly in my cheek, I must quote Festus Haggen from 'Gunsmoke' who said, 'That's harder than I'd slam a door.'"
(Looks like someone has a little too much time on their hands...)
July 14, 2007, 13:00
JB
Just keeping it real.
July 14, 2007, 13:14
Doran Williams
not only is it true, but it also means that anything he says or does is suspect?

C'mon JB, you are pandering to the masses with that kind of lame argument. Really not worthy of you. Meet this guy on the substance and quality of what he says, not on whether he is a "liberal."

By way, what is a "liberal"?

And by the way again, I really don't mind liberal bashing as such. It keeps people who might actually have a liberal outlook on life entertained. As long as the bashing is directed at a generic group labeled "liberal" it really does not mean much, as the bashing tells us more about the person doing it than about the generic, undefined group at which it is directed.

There seems to be a tacit understanding among those who post at this forum that there are no "liberal" prosecutors. As those of us who live in Central Texas know, that just ain't so.
July 14, 2007, 17:12
JB
A witness is often impeached on the basis of his/her bias. The form of impeachment plays upon the notion that a person who favors a particular side will slant his testimony to match that side, regardless of the truth. Mr. Turley suffers from that bias by falling back upon his liberal beliefs to fuel his otherwise sputtering flame of prosecutor misconduct.

He has preconceived notions of prosecutors that are malformed by his point of view and personality. Those notions are not likely to be changed by the truth, which is that most prosecutors, as I have seen from personal observation through the Texas District and County Attorneys Association and my frequent contact at national and nonTexas state conferences, are very interested in learning about the law and doing the right thing.

If I saw that prosecutors were not following the law and acting ethically, I would have no problem revealing it or speaking out it. In fact, I use the occasional example of misconduct during ethics presentations as a warning to other prosecutors. And I don't feel any need to restrain myself in revealing that misconduct. But those examples are very much the exception rather than the rule.

Mr. Turley wants to turn singular examples into causes for nationwide reform. That is no more appropriate than saying all defense attorneys are lazy because we had one Sleeping Lawyer.

My entry into this thread was to show how I was working in my office to counter the Nifong problem. We carefully screen cases. We are cautious with media contact. But we do not apologize for doing the good, hard work of prosecution. No doubt we have been and will again be wrong. But it won't be for lack of trying.
July 15, 2007, 19:09
GG
quote:
Originally posted by Doran Williams:
There seems to be a tacit understanding among those who post at this forum that there are no "liberal" prosecutors.


I think we have one liberal prosecutor who posts here! Big Grin Or maybe that was a literal prosecutor that AP was referring to the other day. Possibly it could have been a critical prosecutor. Maybe it was a rhythmical prosecutor, or a biblical prosecutor.

I pretty much ignore flamers after the 10th post. Adios!
July 16, 2007, 07:25
RWDickson
Liberal is as liberal does.