“ The prosecutor has more power over life, liberty, and reputation than any other person in America.”
United States Attorney General and Supreme Court Jus tice Robert H. Jackson
Former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz provided a supremely interesting commentary on his “up close and personal” experience with the honest services law and federal prosecutors, USA v Minor et al, in a review of the Kings of Torts published in the Northside Sun, a popular Jackson weekly .
We are left to wonder why the court records were not sufficient to support the author’s positions and opinions? Why do they resort to unsworn statements and unproven allegations?
Specifically, why did the authors feel compelled to state as fact that I lived in a condominium owned by Paul Minor free of charge when prosecutors offered no proof of this because they discovered that it was not true? Why did they describe an event involving Paul Minor at a hotel bar, when court testimony clearly showed the event did not occur?
Lange and Dawson’s tome is nothing more than a furtherance of a bogus case against Paul Minor that will not stand any open test in the light of day. It is especially troubling that the book is released while the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is deliberating on the legality of the Minor conviction.
It is obvious to the reader that Mr.Dawson’s position within the U.S.Attorneys office provided a great opportunity for him to questionably gather material for his future endeavor as an author. The question is, will the Department of Justice bear aggressive investigating one of its own as it was in going after certain citizens and elected officials for politically motivated reasons?
As a postscript to his review, Diaz quotes the Code of Federal Regulations governing the conduct of federal employees, including, in his opinion, federal prosecutors such as Dawson:
Office of Government Ethics: 5 CFR2635.702: An employee shall not use his public office for his own private gain, for the endorsement of any product, service or enterprise, or for the private gain of friends, relatives, or persons with whom the employee is affiliated in a nongovernmental capacity, including nonprofit organizations of which the employee is an officer or member, and persons with whom the employee has or seeks employment or business relations. . .Appearance of governmental sanction. Except as otherwise provided in this part, an employee shall not use or permit the use of his Government position or title or any authority associated with his public officein a manner that could reasonably be construed to imply that his agency or the Government sanctions or endorses his personal activities or those of another.
Jim Brown, a former Louisiana Commission of Insurance who also had a personal experience with federal prosecutors, provided the link to Improving Prosecutorial Accountability, a study by the Washington-based Justice Project that profiles the growing problem of prosecutorial misconduct and ways to build in checks and balances into the judicial system. In the related post on his blog, Brown quoted the study:
Here is the chilling conclusion of this report: “The Stevens’ case demonstrates that a culture has developed in which prosecutorial abuse of power occurs—even in the most powerful and well-funded offices in the nation. This policy review reveals that this culture, and the type of misconduct in the Stevens’ case, is prominent in jurisdictions all over the country.”
The Justice Project website links to the Project’s blog and these comments in the post, Changing the “Convict at All Costs” Culture of Prosecutor’s Offices:
With the unique role as both advocates and ministers of justice, prosecutors are the most powerful actors in our justice system. Prosecutors have sole responsibility for decisions regarding what charges to bring against an individual, what sentence to seek, what plea bargain to offer, and what evidence to present to a jury during trial. Yet despite their power, they are rarely held accountable for violating their ethical obligations. This lack of accountability promotes the problematic culture that plagues prosecutors’ offices and contributes to wrongful convictions.
Oliver Diaz has experienced “this lack of accountability” and provided his candid comments on the experience whenever an opportunity arises. All else aside, The Kings of Torts deserves credit for provoking the rest of Mississippi into the on-going, nation-wide discussion of the ethical obligations of prosecutors.