Showing posts from September, 2010

Prosecutorial Misconduct

USA Today has an interesting article that is receiving attention around the blogosphere, including here and here . According to the article, USA Today has documented 201 criminal cases since 1997 in which federal prosecutors violated laws and ethical rules. According to sources interviewed for the article, this is just "the tip of the iceberg." Federal prosecutors are supposed to seek justice, not merely score convictions. But a USA TODAY investigation found that prosecutors repeatedly have violated that duty in courtrooms across the nation. The abuses have put innocent people in prison, set guilty people free and cost taxpayers millions of dollars in legal fees and sanctions. Judges have warned for decades that misconduct by prosecutors threatens the Constitution's promise of a fair trial. Congress in 1997 enacted a law aimed at ending such abuses. Yet USA TODAY documented 201 criminal cases in the years that followed in which judges determined that Justice Department

Abdulmutallab and Plea Bargaining

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog has an interesting article today entitled "Why Not Just Let Abdulmutallab Plead Guilty?" On Monday, the accused Christmas Day bomber, Umar Faroukh Abdulmutallab, told Detroit federal judge Nancy G. Edmunds that he wanted to represent himself. He also asked Judge Edmunds whom he should talk to if he wanted “to plead guilty to some counts.” But Judge Edmunds didn’t just accept Abdulmutallab’s request. She peppered Abdulmutallab with questions about his understanding of U.S. law and criminal procedure. She told him it was unwise to move forward without a lawyer, though she said she’s ultimately let him do that. She also said she wouldn’t accept a guilty plea now. So why not? Why would a judge put a defendant like Abdulmutallab through the wringer before granting what appear to be reasonable requests? We did a little reporting in pursuit of this answer yesterday — click here for the sidebar that ran in the WSJ. The federal court system makes it h

Podgor on Pleading Blindly

Ellen S. Podgor (Stetson Law) has posted an interesting article on SSRN entitled "Pleading Blindly." In the criminal area, discovery violations are a continual concern. Recently, the Department of Justice (DOJ) was caught with discovery violations that reflected prosecutorial misconduct and improprieties. To its credit, the DOJ issued three Memos that sought to affirmatively promote office compliance with discovery obligations. The three Memos of former Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden, however, fall short in an important area, discovery for defendants prior to entering into plea agreements. This Essay places this discussion in the backdrop of existing legal scholarship and existing precedent, most importantly the Supreme Court opinion in United States v. Ruiz, that provides little support for mandating discovery to defendants prior to entering into a plea agreement. Protecting the importance of a voluntary and knowing plea cannot be overlooked in assuring an efficient

NYT Article Regarding Innocent People Confessing to Crimes

The New York Times has an interesting article regarding innocent people confessing to crimes they did not commit. Eddie Lowery lost 10 years of his life for a crime he did not commit. There was no physical evidence at his trial for rape, but one overwhelming factor put him away: he confessed. At trial, the jury heard details that prosecutors insisted only the rapist could have known, including the fact that the rapist hit the 75-year-old victim in the head with the handle of a silver table knife he found in the house. DNA evidence would later show that another man committed the crime. But that vindication would come only years after Mr. Lowery had served his sentence and was paroled in 1991. “I beat myself up a lot” about having confessed, Mr. Lowery said in a recent interview. “I thought I was the only dummy who did that.” But more than 40 others have given confessions since 1976 that DNA evidence later showed were false, according to records compiled by Brandon L. Garrett, a professo