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Federal Prosecutors Break Laws For Convictions

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  • jail4judges
    J.A.I.L. News Journal _____________________________________________________ Los Angeles, California May 6,
    Message 1 of 1 , May 6, 2003
      J.A.I.L. News Journal
      Los Angeles, California                                                      May 6, 2003

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      Federal Prosecutors Break Laws For Convictions
      (Sent by Att. Gary Zerman,
      Lt. Commander-In-Chief of J.A.I.L., gzerman@... )
      Federal Prosecutors Break Laws for Convictions, Says 10-Part Series in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Chicago Tribune Finds Similar Abuses Among 
      State Prosecutors


      January-February 1999

      In November and December 1998, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published a landmark 10-part series by veteran investigative reporter Bill Moushey on prosecutorial misconduct and corruption. The investigative report alleges that Federal agents and prosecutors across the U.S. repeatedly break the law in pursuit of convictions (Bill Moushey, "Win at all Costs: Government misconduct in the name of expedient justice," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, reprint of articles from November 22, 23, 24, 29, and December 1, 6, 7, 8 and 13, 1998).

      The two-year investigation by Post-Gazette reporter Bill Moushey found numerous examples of prosecutors lying, concealing evidence, distorting the facts, engaging in cover-ups, paying for perjured testimony, and prosecuting innocent people to win guilty pleas and convictions. In addition, the paper reported that Federal officials were rarely punished for their misconduct. The misconduct caused victims to lose their jobs, their assets and even their families, according to the paper.

      The U.S. Justice Department denied the allegations. "Our prosecutors live by strict, comprehensive and effective ethical rules," said spokesperson Myron Marlin.

      However, the Justice Department is aggressively seeking the repeal of the Citizens Protection Act (P.L. 105-277, Section 801), passed last year in the Omnibus Spending bill, which requires Federal prosecutors to abide by the bar ethics rule in the states in which they work. The measure is scheduled to take effect in April. The Justice Department argues that the new law would deny them important prosecutorial tactics, such as using wiretaps, informants or other undercover techniques against certain types of suspects (Eric Lichtblau, "Justice Dept. Contends Law Would Handcuff Prosecutors," Los Angeles Times (National Edition), February 2, 1999, p. A3).


      A similar 6-part series in the Chicago Tribune found that overzealous prosecutors across the U.S. are skirting ethical rules and subverting justice. The Tribune reviewed thousands of court records and appellate court decisions across the U.S. and found that since 1963 at least 381 defendants have had a homicide conviction dismissed because prosecutors either concealed exculpatory evidence or presented evidence that was untrue. Sixty-seven of those defendants were sentenced to die. None of the prosecutors involved were convicted of criminal charges or banned from practicing law, according to the paper (Ken Armstrong and Maurice Possley, "The verdict: Dishonor," Chicago Tribune, January 8, 1999; Ken Armstrong, "'True patriot' not quite a shining star," Chicago Tribune, January 9, 1999; Maurice Possley and Ken Armstrong, "The flip side of a fair trial," Chicago Tribune, January 11, 1999; Maurice Possley and Ken Armstrong, "Prosecution on trial in DuPage," Chicago Tribune, January 12, 1999; Ken Armstrong and Maurice Possley, "Reversal of fortune," Chicago Tribune, January 13, 1999; Ken Armstrong and Maurice Possley, "Break rules, be promoted," Chicago Tribune, January 14, 1999).

      In an editorial, the Dallas Morning News wrote: "Considering the tens of thousands of cases tried nationwide since 1963, the 381 convictions may seem inconsequential. They aren't. Homicide cases account for only a fraction of all criminal cases. No one knows how many aggravated assault, rape and armed robbery trials may have been tainted by unethical conduct." (Editorial, "Wrongful convictions," Dallas Morning News, January 14, 1999).

      [Considering that drug cases are the largest category of cases in the criminal justice system (there were 1.5 million drug arrest in 1996, for example) and that 400,000 prisoners are serving sentences for drug convictions, it is probable that many thousands of such cases were "tainted by unethical conduct." Certainly, the cases examined by PBS's Frontline documentary "Snitch" were so tainted. -- RCT]

      The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report is available on-line at <http://www.post-gazette.com/win/default.asp>
      or contact the paper at 34 Boulevard of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222-1204, Tel: (412) 263-1100 or
      (800) 228-6397, Fax: (412) 391-8452.

      Bill Moushey - 34 Boulevard of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, Tel: (412) 263-1887, Fax: (412) 391-8452,
      E-mail: <bmoush@...>.

      The Chicago Tribune report is on-line at <http://www.ndsn.org/JANFEB99/www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/>, click on "Trial
      and Error" on the left-hand side. Contact authors Ken Armstrong - E-mail: <karmstrong@...>,
      Tel: (312) 222-4661 or Maurice Possley - E-mail: <mpossley@...> , Tel: (312) 222-3401.

      U.S. Department of Justice - 950 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20530, Tel: (202) 514-2001,
      Web: <www.usdoj.gov>.

      To obtain the PBS Frontline documentary "Snitch," contact Frontline, WGBH-TV, 125 Western Ave.,
      Boston, MA 02134-1008, Tel: (617) 492-2777, Fax: (617) 254-0243, E-mail: <frontline@...>, Web:

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