Prosecutorial misconduct – do we have a trend?

Federal prosecutors are hired to serve justice; but, some seem to focus more on winning cases – and it’s not just the case of former Senator Stevens, according this report from the WSJ Law Blog.

…it seems that prosecutorial misconduct is the hot topic, thanks in part to Judge Emmet Sullivan who decided to take on the prosecutors in the trial of former U.S. Ted Stevens. Judge Sullivan railed that he had “never seen anything approach the mishandling and misconduct I have seen in this case.”

But another federal judge has been on the war path in recent months about the same thing. In Boston, U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf is considering sanctions against a prosecutor for withholding evidence that showed a police officer gave questionable testimony about the defendant’s arrest. (See this Boston Globe story.) In a written opinion, the judge also referred to nine recent examples demonstrating what he called “repeated failure to disclose information” by local prosecutors.

“The egregious failure of the government to disclose plainly material exculpatory evidence in this case extends a dismal history of intentional and inadvertent violations of the government’s duties to disclose in cases assigned to this court,” wrote Wolf in his 42-page ruling. The judge wrote that in several cases, the misconduct led to mistrials and convictions that were overturned.

The U.S. attorney in Boston, Michael Sullivan…told the judge in February that only a small fraction of cases contained such mistakes. A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney declined to comment to the LB.

Now comes word via this story in the Globe that Sullivan (the USA, not the judge) intends to resign Sunday and return to private practice. Sullivan, who took the job a week after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, built a well-regarded health care fraud unit. But critics say he could have been more aggressive about prosecuting other kinds of financial fraud.

“There’s an opportunity to have a financial services department so that the one whistleblower about [accused swindler Bernard] Madoff who was in Boston wouldn’t have to go to New York to make the complaint,” Alice E. Richmond, a Boston lawyer, told the Globe, referring to the Boston accountant Harry Markopolos. Richmond would like to have Sullivan’s job.

Looks as if there was fire under all the smoke, after all.

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