Monday, January 17, 2011

Protecting the Worst Among Us: How the U.S. Supreme Court Rewards Prosecutorial Misconduct

Camille Tilley, the mother of wrongfully-convicted Courtney Bisbee, sent me the link to a stunning article that has appeared in the Los Angeles Times about how the U.S. Supreme Court protects prosecutors who lie and deliberatly hide exculpatory evidence. If you want to know why people like Chris Arnt and Len Gregor are willing to lie openly in court, hide evidence, suborn perjury, and fabricate documents during a trial, this article lays it out for you.

Perhaps the most chilling paragraph in this excellent story is found here:
Last year, the court heard the case of two Iowa prosecutors who were sued for framing two black teenagers for the murder of a security guard even though witnesses had pointed to a suspect who was white. In asking for the claim to be tossed out, the Iowa prosecutors asserted "there is no freestanding constitutional right not to be framed." (Emphasis mine)
I want readers to sit back and contemplate what the Iowa prosecutors are saying: Because the U.S. Constitution does not explicitly say that prosecutors are not to frame innocent people, therefore, prosecutors are permitted to do so. (However, I suspect that many of those people would claim that even though the Constitution does not specifically say that women have an untrammeled "right" to an abortion, nonetheless the Constitution guarantees that "right.")

While the argument these people used was extreme, nonetheless I believe that it reflects the mentality of prosecutors around the country. Because they know that they won't face any legal consequences for their misdeeds, they feel free to do whatever they want, even if they know they are lying.

Furthermore, keep in mind that the consequences of prosecutorial misconduct are horrific. People are wrongfully sent to prison. Families are destroyed. People are executed for crimes they did not commit.

This sorry state of affairs continues because the Law-and-Order Conservatives believe that prosecutors should be able to conduct their operations without any worries at all, and that no one should be permitted to impede their actions, even if they are pursuing innocent people. Furthermore, the same people who believe that a business should be destroyed because an employee acted wrongfully refuse to hold that same standard to the agents of the state. The LAT article notes:
The high court has taken a dim view of suing prosecutors, and in Thompson's case, the court's conservatives led by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. questioned whether the district attorney's office should be held responsible for the misdeeds of a few prosecutors. (Emphasis mine)
Would Alito hold to that same standard if Wal-Mart were being sued? I doubt it, and his words send a very clear message to prosecutors everywhere: Lie, lie, and lie some more. The Supreme Court has your backs.

I would like to say that a free society cannot withstand this kind of assault, but Americans long ago threw away their freedoms. Instead, we have a surveillance-police state that empowers some of the worst people among us.

Last May, a Catoosa County jury acquitted Tonya Craft of child molestation charges, and jurors even remarked afterward that Chris Arnt had openly lied to them during closing arguments. We witnessed Joal and Sarah Henke committing perjury, unqualified prosecution witnesses testifying, the fabrication of documents, and more perjury from Sandra Lamb and Sherri Wilson.

In other words, in order to bring criminal charges against Ms. Craft, Arnt and Len Gregor committed crimes, and helped others commit crimes along the way. Jurors and others in the courtroom witnessed criminal behavior, yet not one person who lied and broke the law faced any sanctions.

Arnt, Gregor, Tim Deal, and "judge" brian outhouse are still on the job. No one who lied faced any punishment, and no one will be punished for what they did.

Why? They knew that they were perfectly secure in their lawbreaking because the authorities will not do anything about it. For that matter, the authorities WERE the lawbreakers. Let me put it another way, one that perhaps puts all of this into perspective:

Lawbreaking by government authorities is legal because it is the "Law of the Land." The U.S. Supreme Court has said so.


Doc Ellis 124 said...

Greetings, Dr Anderson


Thank you for writing this.

Doc Ellis 124

Anonymous said...

Another great blog, So you are telling me, That we don't have a Snowball Chance in hell of getting a fair trial, or our name Cleared.
What kind of justice is that, Where do we go from here. Surely there is still people, that want Justice for the Innocent.Put your self in their shoes, knowing you was serving time for something you did not do. That makes it hard.

Anonymous said...

Bill, I'm gonna have to part ways with you on this one, slightly. I have never seen a case where the US Supreme Court said it was okay to lie. The questions from the justices do not mean either that they lean that way or that they will vote that way. in fact, sometimes the ask questions becuase they anticipate what the counter arguments will be. The issue at hand is prosecutorial immunity. The US supreme court holding that a state has the right to grant immunity does not mean they are for or against such a law. It means they are ruling the state has the right to pass such a law. It has a harsh result no doubt but that is what states rights is all about. Clearly, the time has come to change the immunity laws, no question. I think that the US Supreme Court will uphold that as well. I am with you 100% that prosecutors need constraints and punishment for violating the constraints. They are the ones who should know better. The supreme court is not the place to change the law though. We should never rely on a court to pass laws. The blame for harsh results of a court applying the law should be squarely on the legislature.

Bruce Hall said...

You presume that trials about truth and justice when they are about winning and losing.

Truth and justice are marketing terms for the court system. Winning and losing are the correct legal terms and recognized by both prosecutors and criminal defense lawyers.

Lying cannot occur; it is merely rearranging the reality of the occurrence. It is up to the jury to decide which reality is more believable, not which reality is truth. Documents are not truth; documents are pieces of paper that support reality that has been rearranged.

Hence, it means a loyal willingness to say that black is white .... But it means also the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary.

William L. Anderson said...

Well, Bruce, if you ever are on trial, and the charges are false, I hope you remember that it is just a parliamentary debate and the jury will decide what is truth.

Are you saying that it is just fine for prosecutors to lie and fabricate "evidence," or are you saying that there is no such thing as truth?

Rob said...

Bruce, how is that characterization any different from George Orwell's definition of "doublethink" in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four? Or is that your point?

Anonymous said...