The Open File Blog
/ November 26, 2014
The Michigan Court of Appeals has reversed the conviction of Paul Heminger, an Alger County man, for growing twenty-two pot plants in what he argued was an entirely legal act under the state’s medical marijuana law.  In an unanimous decision, the court held that veteran prosecutor Karen Bahrman’s closing argument was “clearly and thoroughly improper”...
/ November 25, 2014
In August, Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich watched the Tennessee Supreme Court overturn a murder case she had tried as an assistant district attorney on grounds of prosecutorial misconduct and order a new trial. The court found that Weirich improperly commented on Noura Jackson’s right to remain silent and that her team suppressed a...
/ November 23, 2014
A new report, which offers a detailed empirical analysis of the role judicial review plays in the disclosure of favorable information to defendants, has found that application of the “materiality” standard to determine whether or not a Brady violation has occurred has the perverse effect of encouraging prosecutors not to disclose favorable information or disclose...
/ November 20, 2014
We learned this week that the man that the Justice Department has sent to Boston to assist in the capital prosecution of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the alleged Boston Marathon Bomber, was previously cited by a Federal Judge in Virginia for serious prosecutorial misconduct in a different high-profile death penalty case, which resulted in dismissal of kidnapping...
/ November 18, 2014
In covering prosecutorial misconduct, we’re most often highlighting the behavior of prosecutors at or leading up to trial, when rules about discovery and improper argument are in force. Harder, but no less important, is to get at the misuse of prosecutorial discretion, which comes into play long before the creation of any court record. At...
/ November 15, 2014
Dahlia Lithwick’s latest piece on Slate, published earlier this evening, provides a terrific update on the Justin Wolfe case, one we’ve been following for some time here at The Open File. For those who aren’t familiar with the case, Wolfe’s death sentence and conviction were thrown out in 2011 after a federal judge found multiple...
/ November 11, 2014
After what a trail judge called “a persistent course of conduct designed to prejudice the defendants,” by the prosecutor in an attempted murder trial in Dukes County, a jury has acquitted both defendants. As reported by the Martha’s Vineyard Times, the case stems from an altercation last year in Oak Bluffs between two pairs of...
/ November 10, 2014
Opening and closing statements and the use of PowerPoint slides got prosecutors into hot water in three different states in October, with appellate courts reversing convictions after finding that those prosecutors made improper arguments about defendants or their lawyers. A New Jersey prosecutor’s “antics” led to the reversal of an attempted murder conviction last month...
/ November 6, 2014
Claims about false confessions are usually made by defendants not prosecutors.  But in a peculiar turn of events in Erie County, District Attorney Jack Daneri is arguing that his Chief Deputy, Brian Krowicki, made a false confession last July when he told the judge in a 2013 attempted murder case that he had intentionally withheld evidence...
/ November 5, 2014
In a remarkable, and it turns out repeated, violation of the established pattern and practice of capital cases in Texas, it was discovered last week that Kerr County District Attorney Bruce Curry had once again failed to notify defense attorneys that the state had sought and received an execution date for their client–in this case,...
/ November 4, 2014
Update – November 4, 2014 The California Supreme Court has disbarred Jon Alexander, the former Del Norte District Attorney who was suspended following state bar findings that he had spoken to a defendant about her case without her attorney present. The court made its ruling without comment, affirming the recommendation of a state bar judge....
/ November 3, 2014
Last month we wrote about the Disciplinary Board of the New Mexico Supreme Court filing disciplinary charges against Taos District Attorney Donald Gallegos and assistant prosecutor Emilio Chavez, for their alleged issuance of over a hundred improper subpoenas.  The subpoenas hadn’t been authorized by any grand jury or judge, and they told the recipients not to...
/ October 31, 2014
Another conviction in Clark County, this one for attempted murder, is being reviewed in light of allegations that prosecutors failed to turn over information regarding payments the state made to the only person who identified the defendant, Franklin Jackson, as the shooter. Last month the Las Vegas Review-Journal exposed a decade long practice of the...
/ October 30, 2014
As voters head to the polls for next week’s mid-term elections, they will also be voting in hundreds of local races for district attorney, often with little information about the candidates or their positions, despite the enormous effect these men and women have over the criminal justice system. Earlier this week, we took a look...
/ October 28, 2014
As the national political media updates for the ‘nth time their statistical models on the likelihood of Senate control changing hands, races with a far more direct and pervasive influence on the criminal justice system have been playing out across the country this fall with scant media attention. Earlier this month, the Metro Trends blog...