Officials in the district attorney's office denied that prosecutorial
misconduct was frequent or went unpunished. They said that in the 72 cases that
Mr. Rudin highlighted, sanctions might have been issued that were not reflected
in the prosecutors' personnel records. ....
Mr. Rudin's client, Alberto Ramos, won a $5 million settlement this month,
11 years after he was released from prison because of a wrongful conviction in a
child sex abuse case. In the 1992 reversal, the judge found that the trial
prosecutor had withheld evidence that most likely
would have exonerated Mr.
Ramos. He later filed a civil suit, but to win damages from a jury he needed to
prove that the prosecutor's actions were caused by a policy or practice of
misconduct in the district attorney's office. The city settled on Sept.
The withholding of exculpatory evidence and other forms of
prosecutorial misconduct are problems in courts nationwide, legal experts say.
There is disagreement about whether offending prosecutors are sanctioned often
or severely enough, but the lack of disciplinary action by the Bronx district
attorney in dozens of cases where misconduct was cited - with some prosecutors,
repeatedly - is evidence of a policy of tolerance, Mr. Rudin said.
you have people with the power to destroy lives, and when they do it by
withholding evidence, there is no sanction," he said.
Officials in the
Bronx district attorney's office said that the citings were not conclusive
evidence that misconduct occurred willfully, or that a pattern existed,
given the high volume of felony cases tried in the 21-year period - about
Others in the legal profession said that misconduct was
sometimes a necessary part of the learning curve. "Everybody makes mistakes - if
we have a zero-tolerance policy in the legal profession, everyone is going to
get disbarred," said Joshua K. Marquis, district attorney of Astoria, Ore., and
a member of the board of directors of the National District Attorneys
The cases that Mr. Rudin highlighted involved 74 prosecutors
- 14 of whom were cited for misconduct in several cases. In one such case, a
prosecutor who was hired in 1978 and retired in 1984 was cited for prosecutorial
misconduct in the appellate decisions of five criminal
singled out in a manslaughter reversal in 1985 for "confusing and misleading the
jury." In that ruling, the judge recalled the prosecutor's cited misconduct in
another manslaughter case that had been reversed and concluded that his conduct
and actions "can only be viewed as willful and deliberate."
to his personnel records, his salary continued to rise steadily until he
retired, and included merit raises and bonuses.
Eighteen of the 72 cases
involved prosecutors withholding evidence that might have helped the defendant.
All 18 cases were overturned.
Among them was People v. Lantigua, a murder
case that went to trial in 1992. The case depended on a sole witness who
allegedly saw the murder from her window. Prosecutors argued that she was alone
and had no distraction, when the witness had confided to one of the prosecutors
before the trial that she had "snuck out" to meet a man.
The judge said
the failure to disclose the conversation was "especially egregious." The
prosecutors were never sanctioned, according to their personnel records, Mr.
Mr. Ramos was 21 years old and a part-time employee at the
Concourse Day Care Center in the Bronx when, in 1984, he was arrested and
charged with raping a 5-year-old girl whose class he helped supervise. While in
prison, Mr. Ramos, 40, said he endured beatings, was sodomized and tried to
commit suicide several times.
"Every day for me was hell," Mr. Ramos said
in an interview at his attorney's office. Mr. Ramos, who recently left the
military and wants to be a chef, said he did not want to talk about the millions
"I don't think it's really about the money," said Mr. Ramos,
sitting upright in a crisply ironed blue shirt and tie, his hands folded tightly
in front of him. "I think it's about an injustice done to a minority who didn't
have the funds of someone who was better off."
Mr. Ramos's conviction
largely rested, Mr. Rudin said, on the testimony of one of the doctors, who said
the girl would not have been able to describe in such detail what happened to
her if she had not been abused.
What the jury never heard was testimony
from day care center workers that the girl had masturbated frequently in class
and had extensive knowledge of sexual acts prior to the alleged abuse. They also
never heard testimony that the child had told city social workers that Mr. Ramos
had done nothing to her.
The trial prosecutor, Diana Farrell, had the
obligation to make this evidence known to the defense, and failed to do so,
according to the 1992 reversal. Officials of the district attorney's office said
they were not at liberty to discuss whether any disciplinary action was taken
Ms. Farrell. Repeated efforts to get in touch with Ms. Farrell, who
is no longer with the district attorney's office, were unsuccessful.http://www.nytimes.com/2003/12/17/nyregion/17PROS.html?ex=1072670719&ei=1&en=db1
On authority of one having worked within the Los
Angeles District Attorney's Office for near two decades, there was a competitive
spirit of racking up convictions not only among the inner-office Deputy District
Attorneys, but among the various District Attorney's Offices throughout Los
Angeles County. It ran like a competitive chess game.
This publisher has in his early archives an article on
the District Attorney's Offices within the State of Texas competing on racking
up points among the Deputies for those acquiring the most years of sentencing.
The rules were that each year of total sentencing constituted a point. Even the
judges got into the game, sentencing some at his pleasure for over 1000 years to
help certain Deputies rack up their points.
When one thinks that we are here talking about families
and lives being ruined at the expense of Deputy District Attorneys seeking to
win a game, it is unthinkable. Yes, and for the sake of winning these type of
games as an unspoken policy, practice, and custom, the taxpayers pay
for housing such people for life, or even multiple life sentences, while
hiding exculpatory evidence that should have been revealed.
"..it does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless
minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds.." - Samuel Adams
"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who
striking at the
-- Henry David Thoreau