Under fire for its handling of the criminal case against former Sen. Ted Stevens, the Justice Department last week outlined a plan to ensure prosecutors play by the rules when dealing with evidence. But some criminal defense lawyers and judges say the reforms don’t go far enough.
On Oct. 13, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer traveled to Seattle to address of panel of lawyers and judges who are considering a change to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure that would place more stringent requirements on prosecutors to disclose case information to defense lawyers.
Breuer pitched what he called a “comprehensive approach” to reform — a plan that includes mandatory annual discovery training for all prosecutors and the creation of a new position at Main Justice that will focus on discovery issues. Breuer also said the Justice Department would agree to put existing case law and federal statutes involving information sharing into one rule in the criminal procedure books — making the rule a one-stop shop for disclosure obligations.
But Breuer said the department would fight any effort to require prosecutors to turn over all favorable information to the defense.
The idea of having federal prosecutors throw you a surprise party in court has absolutely no relationship to the concept of justice. Mr. Breuer doesn’t seem to get that point or several others.
He also played down criticism that prosecutor misconduct is widespread, saying there’s no evidence of that. Continue reading