PROSECUTORS GONE WILD

November 21, 2009
By Coxwell & Associates on November 21, 2009 8:24 AM |

Most people have probably heard about those videos of people partying all of over the world. The producers go around the world filming young people getting drunk and taking off their clothes, then they sell the videos and make a fortune. I think the title of the videos are "Girls Gone Wild." I have decided to produce my own video but it is going to have a different format. The title is going to be Prosecutors Gone Wild. Once that video is a success the next series is going to be Law Officers Gone Wild.

Over the course of my 29 years of law practice I have personally seen so many instances of prosecutors out of control. I can remember two cases where the Assistant District Attorney deliberately refused to tell me about evidence that was helpful to the person accused of a crime. Federal Constitutional Law and State Law requires a prosecutor to advise a lawyer who is representing an accused if there is any evidence that is favorable to either guilt or innocence. Sadly, many prosecutors do not take this law seriously. Which means they do not take seriously the State and Federal Constitutions they have sworn to protect.

There have been other cases I have worked on where the prosecutors withheld evidence until right before or during the trial and then presented the evidence. This is also prohibited and unfair. If the evidence is favorable, the defense has no time to effectively make use of it. If the evidence is unfavorable, the defense has no time to investigate, research, and counter the evidence. Just this week the Mississippi Supreme Court was force to reverse and remand a criminal case for just that reason. The prosecutor waited until a trial started before releasing the name of a witness. This is wrong.

Prosecutors have a dual duty in the criminal justice system. They must prosecute the guilty, but they must also make sure the innocent are not prosecuted and they must affirmatively act to see that the trial is fundamentally fair. This means that doubts should always be resolved in favor of the accused. That is one of the hallmarks and guiding principles of our Great Country and Justice System. I tell juries all the time to remember that our system of justice is an adversary system. Do you know what that means? It means parties oppose each other and are adversaries and present different viewpoints of the evidence and law. The Government always has more power than the citizen or accused. Always, without exception. We have rules to protect the citizen from excessive government action. Even though the prosecutor must prosecute cases, his overriding duty is to see that the trial is fair. Unfortunately, it seems to me that justice becomes a competitive sport at times.

In each of the cases that I was personally involved not one time was the prosecutor sanctioned for deliberately hiding evidence. These were not instances of forgetfulness. They were wilful and deliberate. A defense lawyer would be heartily sanctioned if he acted with such impunity toward the law. Perhaps there are slow changes coming. The prosecutors in the Senator Ted Stevens case are being sanctioned. I read recently that the Bar Association was trying to take away their right to practice law. If they acted deliberately, they should lose their license. Today I read an order from a Georgia Judge holding an Assistant D.A. and the D.A. in contempt of court. The Assistant D.A. refused during the trial to comply with the Court's lawful orders. Think about that for a minute. A prosecutor who refused to follow a Court's lawful order. If a lawyer is involved in a case and he or she does not like a Court's Order, then you object. You place your reasons in the record and then appeal to a higher Court. You do not have the right to disregard an Order. And in this case the D.A. verbally attacked the Judge after Court and then told his assistant not to follow the Court's Order. Both of these lawyers need to be severely sanctioned!

I also witnessed a video this week of a Deputy Sheriff who in open Court stole a document form the file of a defense lawyer. If you are not aware of this fact, you should know that communications between a lawyer and his client are privileged. The files of a lawyer are privileged and confidential. For a Deputy to take a document is completely illegal. All of this was caught on the courtroom camera. The punishment for the Deputy was to apologize to the lawyer. Stealing is a crime. I have witnessed ordinary people go to jail for crimes like what the Deputy committed. Police officers who are charged with crimes often get special treatment. So when people ask me "How do you represent people charged with crimes," I can respond, "it's easy, everyone deserves a compassionate and strong lawyer fighting for them." Good people can make mistakes. If you or your family need a lawyer please call for a free consultation.