* * * Objective: CONVICTIONS - Not Justice!
- J.A.I.L. News Journal
Los Angeles, California December 25, 2003Objective: CONVICTIONS -Not Justice!
Prosecutors Not Penalized, Lawyer Says
New York Times
December 17, 2003
By ANDREA ELLIOTT
A lawyer who won the largest wrongful conviction settlement in the city's history said yesterday that during his investigation he uncovered dozens of cases of prosecutorial misconduct in the Bronx district attorney's office that did not result in disciplinary action. ....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. 4.
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.
"Here 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 100,000.
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 Association.
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
He was 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."
But according 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. Rudin said.
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 he won.
"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 against
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=db1On 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.
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