Monday, June 27, 2011

North Carolina prosecutors get their wish: the permanent disappearance of exculpatory evidence

Four years ago, the State of North Carolina saw something more rare than a wild polar bear in Florida: the actual disbarment of a prosecutor for withholding exculpatory evidence and then lying to a judge about it. While it was morally satisfying to see a lawbreaker like Mike Nifong get at least a tiny bit of comeuppance for his crimes, apparently the other prosecutors in North Carolina got nervous.

Never fear. This week, the North Carolina legislature passed a bill ensuring that prosecutors, in violation of the U.S. Supreme Court's Brady decision, can withhold exculpatory evidence indefinitely. (Notice that the information is barely mentioned in the news article, but it definitely has major implications, as I see it. This article has a bit more information.)

Now, prosecutors no doubt will claim that it is not their fault if the police withhold information that is vital for the defense and do so without the knowledge of prosecutors, and if something is put into those terms, I can understand their point. However, my sense is that situations in which exculpatory evidence is withheld rarely, if ever, involve police mishandling of evidence or even police misconduct in absence of the knowledge of prosecutors.

Anyone familiar with how criminal law works knows that police and prosecutors work closely together. The notion that police are going to treat prosecutors the same way they treat defendants and defense lawyers truly is a howler, but that is what prosecutors want us to believe.

So, what is likely to happen as a result of this new law? I have no doubt that prosecutors simply are going to make sure that a lot of exculpatory information somehow remains in police files and doesn't make its way to the courthouse. The police will be able to claim that they "just forgot" and prosecutors will be able to claim that they had no clue this stuff existed.

As outrageous as this law is, I doubt it could have saved Mike Nifong's skin in the infamous Duke Lacrosse Case. First, Nifong took over the investigation from the police and was involved in a number of details, including overseeing the "lineup" from which Crystal Mangum picked her alleged assailants. In fact, this very point is why he is able to be sued, given he went outside the normal scope of his duties.

Second, while Nifong in his response to the North Carolina State Bar (after it filed charges against him), first claimed no recollection of being at a meeting with Brian Meehan, whose DNA lab had found the results which ultimately led to Nifong's downfall. His only hope would have been that the police had not turned over the relevant exculpatory information, but given that he and Meehan actually planned strategy at that meeting, his "I don't recall being there" defense was seen for the sham it was.

I have no doubt at all that this new law will lead to more wrongful convictions in North Carolina, a state that already is known for a bad criminal "justice" system. Furthermore, I suspect that most legislators voting for this abomination knew just that, but really didn't care. And prosecutors now have been handed yet another weapon to destroy innocent people.

As I further develop the case narrative and look into the conviction of Bradley Cooper, I can see this mentality at work. The police (as we shall see) destroyed a key piece of exculpatory evidence and then lied about what they did. Was this done with collusion with prosecutors? Who knows. All I know is that the legislature and Gov. Bev Perdue have handed police and prosecutors the opportunity to destroy and hide even more evidence -- and it all will be perfectly legal.

All in a day's work, I suppose.


Doc Ellis 124 said...

Greetings Dr Anderson


Thank you for writing this essay

Doc Ellis 124

Anonymous said...

"Anyone familiar with how criminal law works knows that police and prosecutors work closely together. The notion that police are going to treat prosecutors the same way they treat defendants and defense lawyers truly is a howler".

I can tell you have no knowledge about how the process actually works.

RWVNRAL said...

Good article. It is noteworthy that efforts to spin off the State Bureau of Corroboration (Woops..I mean Investigation) such that it would no longer fall under the auspices of the state attorney general were gutted. The SBI remains as it was....a state agency that works in tandem with the law-enforcement/prosecution cabal, and under the convenient direction of the state's top cop.

The Brady decision must eventually be revisited. Surely SCOTUS would frown upon this clever game of ledgerdemain meant to frustrate the rights of an accused.

Marco2006 said...

Yet 5 years later the North Carolina State Legislature can't pass a bill requiring Grand Juries have a recorded transcript.

Unbelievably NC is one of the very few states that doesn't have a record of testimony in the Grand Jury. So never-mind Police can lie at will to get an indictment

Anonymous said...

Hey 10:04,
Enlighten us with your vast knowledge...otherwise shut the hell up and go back to ruining peoples lives and wasting oxygen.

William L. Anderson said...

To the 10:04:

Every case in which I have been involved has featured hand-in-glove work between police and prosecutors. In the Tonya Craft trial, when the prosecutors decided to change the narrative, Det. Tim Deal fabricated a document that -- Voila! -- gave cover to the perjury.

In the Duke case, Mark Gottlieb and Ben Himan did a lot of the dirty work for Mike Nifong, and another cop went to the trial of Moez Elmostafa (the cab driver who had provided an alibi for Reade Seligmann) and stared him down during the whole time in order to intimidate him.

We see the same thing in the Cooper trial, given that a cop just happened to erase the victim's cell phone that might have included something that would have enabled the defense a powerful alibi.

Time and again, we see the police and prosecutors working together. Neither the police nor prosecutors working alone can easily frame someone. It takes the two sides working together as a team.

Lynne said...

In the Cooper case, the defense learned in the middle of the trial that prosecutors (or at least their FBI witness) did indeed have exculpatory evidence that was never shared in discovery....that the computer was tested for evidence of an automated/spoofed call and it was determined that there was no evidence of it. The spoofed call was a solid part of the state's case but they were never able to prove it.

Anonymous said...

RWVNRAL wrote:

"The Brady decision must eventually be revisited. Surely SCOTUS would frown upon this clever game of ledgerdemain meant to frustrate the rights of an accused."


SURELY, you were being sarcastic? ...

ARTICLE: Supreme Court rejects damages for innocent man who spent 14 years on death row - LA TIMES, 3/30/11

"In a 5-4 ruling, justices overturn a jury verdict awarding $14 million to John Thompson, who had sued then-New Orleans Dist. Atty. Harry Connick Sr. because prosecutors hid a blood test that would have proved his innocence in a murder case"


Anonymous said...

Figures a cheerleader for the testiliars would show up. There is coast to coast coverage about how cops and prosecutors in every state have worked together to obtain wrongful convictions. Yet, someone apparently (10:04) is more enlightened than the rest of us. Do tell 10:04, how does the process work? Are they just not supposed to get caught?

Anonymous said...

So Anonymous, I can't help but wonder why this article, and the responses of those who support it, have struck such a nerve in you. What are you afraid of?

liberranter said...

What are you afraid of?

The answer would be "the truth," of course.

Lookout Spy said...

Not surprising at all. Back in Georgia, again, the judges and DA's are again on their merry path to destroy anyone who challenges them.

For the latest:

Lookout Spy

Anonymous said...

let's not only consider in the Cooper case that the cell phone was magically erased by "following the phone company's instructions". No, let's also consider that the prosecution conveniently didn't release the cell-phone or laptop until a few days after relevant tech companies (Google, phone company) would delete all records that could show anything other than what the prosecution was saying. Convenient? naaaaah

Anonymous said...

Wow this is truly the most racist blog I have ever been on , this is what the problem of the honky.

your racism is rooted not in a lack of facts or in bad ideas, but in your sense of self-worth.

The truth will not set you free because they are not interested in the truth, you are interested in maintaining their sad, two-bit sense of self-worth, which is partly built on feeling that you are better than black people – and anyone else who is “different”. It is like at the end of “The Bluest Eye”.

Also: you know perfectly well that blacks are getting screwed for no good reason – they have seen the ghettos, you know the numbers – but to avoid a sense of guilt you have to believe that blacks truly are just that screwed up all on their own.

You think like a wife beater

making themselves feel good by putting down others,
avoiding blame for their own actions,
listening only to their own sad, half-baked lies.
If you point out how off-base they are, they just call you names or think of a thousand and one reasons why you are wrong. Anything but taking a cold, hard, honest look at themselves. Because deep down they know the truth but are afraid to face it.

This sick, insecure frame of mind of white people seems to come from slave days when they had a relationship with black people that was nakedly abusive. They would do themselves and everyone else a world of good if they took the road to health: make right their wrongs and then base their self-worth on something good and true.

Shame on all of you honkys, your kids will be forcefully taken away and you put in prison, or in hell.

Unknown said...

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