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prosecutorial abuse

For those of you following the politicized Wisconsin John Doe prosecution — which basically is premised on the idea that even issue advocacy is criminal if coordinated among the wrong people — this report from veteran legal analyst Stuart Taylor, Jr. is pretty amazing. [Legal NewsLine, my two cents from May, more]

More: Ann Althouse parses the response of John Chisholm’s lawyer.

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On July 24 Cato held a book forum on Sidney Powell’s new book, “Licensed to Lie: Exposing Corruption in the Department of Justice.” Participants included the author Sidney Powell, with comments by Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit; and Ronald Weich, Dean, University of Baltimore Law School. My colleague Tim Lynch, who directs Cato’s work on criminal justice issues, moderated. From the description:

In Licensed to Lie, attorney Sidney Powell takes readers through a series of disturbing events, missteps, and cover-ups in our federal criminal justice system. According to Powell, the malfeasance stretches across all three branches of our government — from the White House to the U.S. Senate, to members of the judiciary. Even worse, the law itself is becoming pernicious. Americans can now be prosecuted, convicted, and imprisoned for actions that are not crimes. And if acquitted, there is no recourse against prosecutors who hid evidence vital to the defense.

Powell gives a detailed account of the prosecution and imprisonment of individual executives of well-known firms such as Merrill Lynch based on creative new theories of criminal liability, following dubious prosecutorial conduct including the withholding of evidence favorable to the defense, so-called Brady violations.

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For Daniel Taylor to be convicted of a murder committed while he was actually behind bars, at least three things had to happen: 1) a supposed confession extracted by Chicago police; 2) a conveniently corroborative sighting of Taylor at the scene by another cop; 3) improper withholding of exonerating evidence by the Illinois prosecutor. A Center on Wrongful Convictions video (via Balko)(& welcome Above the Law readers).

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A federal judge has quashed the stunningly abusive “John Doe” proceedings that had resulted in midnight raids on the homes of leading conservative activists across the state. I’ve got more in a new Cato post; fuller coverage at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Watchdog.org (and series), and the decision itself is here. Earlier coverage here, here, and here. I conclude:

The citizens of Wisconsin must now demand a full accounting of how these raids could have happened. They should also insist on changes in state law, in particular the “John Doe” law, aimed at ensuring that nothing like them ever happens again.

Update: Seventh Circuit panel stays ruling pending appeal.

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After 17 months the federal government has released heavily redacted information in response to a FOIA request, shedding new light on the probe into the systematic abuses committed by Sheriff Joseph Arpaio and allied county D.A. Andrew Thomas. We’ve been covering them for years. [Arizona Republic, auto-plays]

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  • Under new Illinois law, third offense of tossing cigarette to ground will be a felony [Andrew Stuttaford]
  • “The New York Times calls for prosecutors to establish an ‘open file’ policy to combat prosecutorial misconduct.” [Nicole Hyland, LEF; New York Times; Radley Balko, whose column at the Washington Post has now launched]
  • “Three Arrests Illustrate the Impact of New York’s Silly Seven-Round Ammunition Limit” [Jacob Sullum]
  • Forfeiture reform on the agenda in Michigan? [John Ross/Reason, Institute for Justice, earlier]
  • Speaking of law enforcement for profit, more on the proliferation of fees and third-party collectors that can land minor miscreants in “debtors’ prison” [Fox News; related, Balko]
  • “Want to stop repeats of Columbine and Newtown? Deprive mass killers of the spotlight. Can the media do that?” [Ari Schulman, WSJ via @garyrosenwsj]
  • “She’s regretted the lie that sent him to prison ever since.” [NY Mag]
  • Follow the federal funding: “Stop giving out awards for arrests” [Andrew Sullivan]
  • NYC cops shoot at mentally disturbed man, hit bystanders instead, charge him with their injuries [Scott Shackford, Popehat]
  • Electric car owner charged with stealing 5 cents worth of power [Chamblee, Ga.: WXIA, auto-plays]
  • Claims re: sex trafficking in US fast spiraling into absurdity. Keep going [Maggie McNeill, earlier] “Perverse Incentives: Sex Work and the Law” [Cato Unbound symposium] “California to Open Victim Compensation Funds to Prostitutes” [Shackford]
  • Illegal ticket quotas at the LAPD, inmate beatings at the county sheriff’s jail: Los Angeles policing hit by multiple scandals [L.A. Times: editorial on charges against 18 sheriff's deputies, LAPD ticket quota]
  • Massachusetts crime lab test faker Annie Dookhan gets 3-5 year sentence [ABA Journal]
  • “Overcriminalization in the states” [Vikrant Reddy, Texas Public Policy Foundation, draft; related Mother Jones] Conservatives call for reforms in New Mexico justice system [Rio Grande Foundation via @PatNolanPFM]
  • Also: “Chief Judge For 9th Circuit [Alex Kozinski] Cites ‘Epidemic’ Of Prosecutor Misconduct” [Radley Balko]
  • Why license plate scanning is an up-and-coming front in the surveillance wars [Radley Balko]
  • Prosecutor whose lapse sent innocent man to prison for 25 years will go to jail — for ten days [Adler, Shackford]
  • “Nurse fights charges she helped father commit suicide” [Phil. Inq., Barbara Mancini case, via @maxkennerly]
  • California inmates released, crime rates jump: a Brown v. Plata trainwreck? [Tamara Tabo, Heather Mac Donald/City Journal]
  • Driver arrested under Ohio’s new law banning hidden compartments in cars even though he had nothing illicit in the compartment [Shackford] Tenaha, Tex. traffic stops, cont’d: “Give Us Cash or Lose Your Kids and Face Felony Charges: Don’t Cops Have Better Things to Do?” [Ted Balaker/Reason, earlier]
  • Arizona Republic series on prosecutorial misconduct [4-parter]
  • Few act as if they care about Mr. Martin-Oguike’s fate at hands of a false accuser [Scott Greenfield]

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A secret special prosecutor wielding “kitchen-sink” subpoenas takes aim at persons and groups who supported Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in his recent showdown with public employee unions. “The probe began in the office of Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf, though no one will publicly claim credit for appointing Mr. Schmitz, the special prosecutor. The investigation is taking place under Wisconsin’s John Doe law, which bars a subpoena’s targets from disclosing its contents to anyone but his attorneys. … [Wisconsin Club for Growth director Eric O'Keefe] adds that at least three of the targets had their homes raided at dawn, with law-enforcement officers turning over belongings to seize computers and files.” [WSJ "Review and Outlook"]

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Ethics roundup

by Walter Olson on October 23, 2013

  • Eliciting false testimony among sins: “Ninth Circuit finds ‘textbook prosecutorial misconduct’” [Legal Ethics Forum]
  • Syracuse: jurors say insurance company lawyer observing trial got uncomfortably close [Above the Law]
  • South Carolina: “Prosecuting attorney is accused of dismissing charges in exchange for sexual favors” [ABA Journal]
  • Judge, handing down six-year sentence, calls defense lawyer’s briefing of witness a “playbook on how to lie without getting caught” [Providence Journal]
  • Kentucky high court reinstates $42 M verdict against lawyers for fleecing fen-phen clients [Point of Law] Accused of bilking clients, prominent S.C. lawyer surrenders license, pleads to mail fraud [ABA Journal]
  • Former Kansas attorney general accused of multiple professional violations: “Phill Kline is indefinitely suspended from practicing law” [Kansas City Star]
  • “Nonrefundable ‘Minimum Fee’ Is Unethical When Fired Lawyer Will Not Refund Any of It” [BNA]

Police and prosecution roundup

by Walter Olson on September 30, 2013

  • Stop and bleed: Tennessee rolls out “no refusal” blood-draw DUI driver checkpoints, which already go on in Texas [WTVF, Reddit, Tom Hunter/Liberal America, Charles "Brad" Frye (Texas practice)]
  • Issues raised by growing practice of placing government “monitors” inside businesses to police compliance [Veronica Root, Prawfs]
  • “Faulty Justice: Italian Earthquake Scientist Speaks Out against His Conviction” [Scientific American]
  • California: suit could probe patterns of harassment against Orange County officials who’ve resisted police union demands [Krayewski, earlier]
  • Illinois “[makes] it a felony to flick cigarette butts onto streets for the third time” [Gideon's Trumpet]
  • Before making laws intended to benefit sex workers, take time to listen to them [Popehat via Maggie McNeill]
  • Report: state of Florida investigating Zimmerman prosecutor Angela Corey over sacking of alleged whistleblower [Washington Times, earlier] “A Visitor’s Guide to Florida’s Most Notorious Law Enforcement Agencies” [Mike Riggs, Atlantic Cities]

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“Citing the ‘grotesque’ misconduct of federal prosecutors, a judge on Tuesday granted a new trial for five former New Orleans Police Department officers convicted in the deadly shootings at the Danziger Bridge after Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent cover-up.” [Juliet Linderman, New Orleans Times-Picayune, embedded PDF; earlier here, here, etc.]

More: J. Christian Adams (why no consequences for supervisor in Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division?), Stephen Gillers.

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The Massachusetts attorney general is now running for governor of the state after losing a Senate run three and a half years ago, so this makes a good occasion to revamp a 2010 post slightly so as to remind readers of Coakley’s central role in the Amirault travesty of justice, described so well by Dorothy Rabinowitz here. Earlier on the Amirault case here and here; on Coakley’s prosecutorial record here.  More: John Stossel and (via Memeorandum): Bronwyn’s Harbor, No Quarter (citing views of Jeralyn Merritt/TalkLeft); Dan McLaughlin, RedStateDan Riehl (Woodward, Souza cases). Yet more: on Coakley’s offer to a deal to one defendant on condition that the experienced defense counsel handling the deal agree not to represent a second defendant in future, see Scott Greenfield (characterizing the move as “a deliberate effort to undermine the constitutional right to counsel”), Kenneth Anderson/Volokh, and John Steele/Legal Ethics Forum. In 2010 we wondered whether Coakley’s Senate-race nosedive under critical public and press scrutiny amounted to the first time a Massachusetts prosecutor had paid a price for being wrong in the Amirault episode.

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August 2 roundup

by Walter Olson on August 2, 2013

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  • Detroit police blasted for arresting Free Press photographer who filmed arrest with her iPhone [Poynter]
  • “The discomfort of principles” in criminal defense matters [Gideon's Trumpet]
  • House Judiciary panel on overcriminalization and mens rea shows genuinely useful bipartisanship [Jonathan Blanks, Cato] One in four new bills these days to create criminal liability lacks mens rea [Paul Rosenzweig/Alex Adrianson, Heritage]
  • Auburn, Alabama: “Cop Fired for Speaking Out Against Ticket and Arrest Quotas” [Reason TV]
  • Film project on overturned Death Row convictions [One for Ten] “Forensics review reveals hair evidence was possibly exaggerated in 27 capital cases” [ABA Journal]
  • Critics of Stand Your Ground seem to be having trouble coming up with examples to back their case [Sullum]
  • Maine: “Hancock County prosecutor admits violating bar rules in sexual assault trial” [Bill Trotter, Bangor Daily News]

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July 18 roundup

by Walter Olson on July 18, 2013

  • “This is just stunning. DOJ is soliciting tips from the public in order to build a case against a single citizen.” [@radleybalko, William Jacobson, @andrewmgrossman] Apparently, Florida Gov. Rick Scott has the power to remove prosecutor Angela Corey from office, and her post-verdict description of Zimmerman as “murderer” is the sort of unprofessionalism that might advance that day [Ian Tuttle with much more about her career, earlier] Ken doesn’t hold back from telling us what he thinks of Nancy Grace [Popehat, earlier]
  • Washington Post covers USDA mandate of disaster plan for magicians’ rabbits [Lowering the Bar, David Fahrenthold/WaPo, earlier]
  • “Joel Tenenbaum’s $675,000 Music Downloading Fine Upheld” [AP]
  • “Hey look, an actual Third Amendment case” may be premature regarding this Nevada dispute, especially if we’re not sure cops = soldiery [Ilya Somin]
  • “Why The State Attorneys General’s Assault On Internet Immunity Is A Terrible Idea” [Eric Goldman, Forbes]
  • Connecticut: “Supreme Court Upholds $2.9 Million Award For Injured Bicyclist” [Courant]
  • The ABA’s annual Blawg 100 nominations are now open, in case, you know, (nudge)

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Taxpayers of the Arizona county are shelling out millions in settlements to compensate victims of the systematic abuses committed by Sheriff Joe Arpaio and D.A. Andrew Thomas. The latest settlement, $1.4 million, was to a developer whose office was ransacked as part of a series of raids conducted against Arpaio’s and Thomas’s political enemies, purportedly in search of evidence of political corruption. “Thomas was disbarred for his actions last year, but Arpaio was re-elected to a sixth term as sheriff in November.” When organized lawyers display higher ethical standards than an electorate, I’m not sure it reflects well on the electorate. [Aaron Kase, Lawyers.com, Phoenix New Times; earlier on Arpaio and on Thomas]