The Open File Blog
/ January 26, 2015
Despite harsh language from the Sixth Circuit for a Hamilton County prosecutor who committed “flagrant” and “severe” misconduct, two recent reversals in a 1992 Ohio murder case have not received much media attention. Yet Gumm v. Mitchell is noteworthy for the Sixth Circuit’s withering criticism of the prosecution in the case, which suppressed a wealth...
/ January 22, 2015
In an opinion remarkable for its forthright criticism of a prosecutor’s “demeaning and belligerent” conduct toward a pro se defendant, the Supreme Court of Delaware has overturned the conviction and death sentence of a Kent County man for a 2010 murder in a bowling alley parking lot in Dover. Twenty-seven year old Isaiah McCoy chose...
/ January 15, 2015
In a case that adds yet another variant to the proliferation of news reports of people released after decades of prison owing to prosecutorial misconduct, a Philadelphia man serving life without parole has been released after 43 years, in an apparent attempt by prosecutors to forestall what could have been a judicial order for his...
/ January 7, 2015
In the ongoing wake of a St. Louis county grand jury’s decision not to hand down an indictment against Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, Monday saw two new developments in response to the behavior of the prosecutors in the case. St. Louis Public Radio reports that a bar complaint has...
/ December 29, 2014
In an unusual development in a case we’ve been following in Taos County, the Albuquerque Journal reported Friday that a judge has fined an assistant district attorney for “abuse of power” following his extensive use of subpoenas that were never authorized by a grand jury or judge. This is the latest disciplinary action in a...
/ December 19, 2014
When it comes to trying to shed light on prosecutors failing to disclose exculpatory evidence, District Attorneys’ offices are most often black holes of information, either silent or aggressively denying such allegations.  It is rare to get a public airing between prosecutors in a given office over what appears to be a practice of deliberate...
/ December 14, 2014
As was widely reported last week, an Arizona appellate court has dismissed with prejudice murder charges against Debra Jean Milke, who has spent most of the last twenty-three years on that state’s death row following her 1990 conviction in Maricopa County for the death of her four year old son. The Milke case is one...
/ December 11, 2014
According to the Observer-Reporter.com, the chief of litigation in Washington County, Deputy District Attorney Joseph Zupancic, has resigned his position in connection with a case we wrote about earlier this fall. In the lead up to a routine robbery trial, Zupancic failed to disclose to the defense the existence of two entirely contradictory letters from...
/ December 5, 2014
Episode 10 of “Serial,” the acclaimed podcast series created by narrator Sarah Koenig and sponsored by This American Life, offers useful insights into the ways that cultural and racial biases attach to cases in the criminal justice system. The episode went live yesterday, December 4, and is available at http://serialpodcast.org/. Though it’s best to start listening...
/ December 2, 2014
Rebuking a remarkable act of prosecutorial legerdemain, the Indiana Court of Appeals has reversed the burglary conviction of a St. Joseph County man, holding that “the State knowingly proffered perjured testimony” from his ex-girlfriend, who had earlier pled guilty as the sole actor in the crime. Two years ago, $3,500 was stolen from a Dollar...
/ 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...