The Open File Blog
/ 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...
/ 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,...