Wednesday, April 01, 2009

A new day

Maybe the Obama Justice Department means business: it is dropping its case against Sen. Ted Stevens because prosecutors withheld evidence. Here's the AP article. Perhaps this will send a strong message to line prosecutors around the country that Brady material should be disclosed. From the article:

The Justice Department said Wednesday it would drop corruption charges against former Sen. Ted Stevens because prosecutors withheld evidence from the senator's defense team during his trial.
The reversal is an embarrassment for the department, which won a conviction against the Alaska Republican in October and is now asking to overturn it.
The week after his conviction, Stevens lost his Senate seat in the November election. The patriarch of Alaska politics since before statehood, Stevens, 85, was also the longest serving Republican senator.

In court filings, the Justice Department admitted it never turned over notes from an interview with the oil contractor, who estimated the value of the renovation work as far less than he testified at trial.
"I have determined that it is in the interest of justice to dismiss the indictment and not proceed with a new trial," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement released Wednesday. He said the department must ensure that all cases are "handled fairly and consistent with its commitment to justice."
The Justice Department is investigating the conduct of the prosecutors who tried the Stevens case.

In December, Stevens asked a federal judge to grant him a new trial or throw out the case, saying his trial had many deficiencies.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan held Justice Department lawyers in contempt in February for failing to turn over documents as ordered. He called their behavior "outrageous."
Sullivan had ordered Justice to provide the agency's internal communications regarding a whistle-blower complaint brought by an FBI agent involved in the investigation of Stevens. The agent objected to Justice Department tactics during the trial, including failure to turn over evidence and an "inappropriate relationship" between the lead agent on the case and the prosecution's star witness.

I'm happy for Stevens and his lawyers (from my old law firm Williams & Connolly), but dropping the case now doesn't put Stevens back in the same position he was in. He lost his Senate seat. His reputation has been ruined. He had to pay for a very expensive criminal trial.


Anonymous said...

This is an example of Obama trying to reach across party lines. You think if this was a poor black defendant in the Southern District of Florida this action would have been taken? Bullshit. I can see the 11th Circuit opinion now "harmless error"..."we cannot say beyond a reasonable doubt..."

Change will only come to this District when the US Atty's Office has a leader in place that impliments a training program to teach prosecutors:

(1) To respect the criminal defense bar and the job they do;

(2) The meaning of professionalism;

(3) The importance of turning over Brady and other materials -- and not to decide what such material is -- if there is a doubt, produce it in camera to the judge.

Anonymous said...

boo-hoo for stevens and his alleged "reputation." he was and is a crook, regardless of the technicality that will prevent him from serving time with other criminals. (funny how republicans hate technicalities when it applies to young black men, but seem to be yearning for them when it applies to them). the fact that stevens will get off on this one doesnt change who he is - a corrupt senator who extracted gifts based on his position. but i agree with the result, since the AG has to set a better example (especially for those in the king building today) who think a win at all costs approach is what the "justice" department should be about. Hope at least some of them who dont understand all this "Brady crap" will get the message. somehow, i doubt it.

Anonymous said...

11:55--it is the height of ignorance to impute the conduct of one person to an entire office of prosecutors. The fact is that there are a lot of hardworking prosecutors who, believe it or not, "respect" what defense lawyers do. The problem is that a lot of defense lawyers think that Brady, Jencks and Giglio encompass every single paper generated in a case and it does not.

Anonymous said...

congrats to Stevens - he is an American hero

Anonymous said...


It was because of the lack of training and oversight that the conduct happened. The office is terribly mismanaged. This is not the first time this stuff has happened. Absent legitimate concerns for the safety of a witness, why would you not turn over reports and all documents? You know damn well the answer is that it is because a defense lawyer will put on a better defense if you do. That in and of itself is a legal reason to turn it over. The Federal system's rules are abused by the Southern District of Florida's US Atty's Office and it is sickening.

swlip said...

The projection that goes on here is sometimes silly. I don't know a single Republican who rooted for Stevens. He and Jack Murtha are the poster boys for the corruption of pork barrel politics in Washington. This Republican is glad that he's out of office.

Now, if only Nancy Pelosi would take on Murtha....