Corrupted Justice

Wonder of wonders! A Louisiana
prosecutor has been

by the Louisiana Supreme Court for
withholding exculpatory evidence in order to get a

death sentence for a 16-year old.
The witness who
obligingly picked the suspect out of a lineup had told
the police that she was not wearing her glasses or
contact lens at the time of the shooting, but her
admission did not reach the defense attorney.

According to Susan Finch, reporter
for the New Orleans Times- Picayune, this is the
first time in Louisiana history that an erring
prosecutor has been punished. [Sanctioned
former prosecutor goes on defensive
, August 07,

It is not much of a punishment–a
three-month suspension to be waived unless he commits
another ethics violation within the next year. But the
prosecutor, Roger Jordan, is upset that the high court
has blemished his reputation and is asking the court to

Jordan claims that he did not
knowingly violate the

that requires prosecutors to turn over

exculpatory evidence.
He says the rule is "vague"
and that in applying the rule to him the court
legislated from the bench.

Jordan`s claims tell us a lot about
the state of prosecutorial ethics. The legal prohibition
against withholding exculpatory evidence is ancient. But
prosecutors today are judged by conviction rates, not by
ethical behavior.

Conviction rates
are believed to be a sign that
prosecutors are protecting society from criminals,
serving justice and being budget effective. To get high
conviction rates, prosecutors engage in a wide variety
of behavior that would have shocked earlier times. They

suborn perjury,
reward false testimony, withhold
exculpatory evidence, and force defendants to
incriminate themselves with plea bargains by piling on
charges until the defendant or his lawyer gives up.

Jordan`s whining about vague rules
and blemished reputation is hypocritical in view of the
treatment prosecutors hand out to their victims. Last
February prosecutors

convicted New York defense attorney Lynne Stewart
violating a letter from the Department of Justice (sic)
telling her the conditions on which she could represent
her client! There is no statute or regulation behind the
letter. How was Stewart to know that it was a felony to
disobey a prosecutor`s letter?

Not content with this absurdity,

convicted the translator
that Stewart used in order
to communicate with her client. The prosecutor claims
that the translator knew that Stewart was disobeying the
letter telling her how to represent her client. But if a
defense attorney did not know that the Justice (sic)
Department could legislate criminal law by writing an
attorney a letter, how would a translator know, assuming
he even saw the letter?

Regulators and prosecutors create
crimes by how they interpret regulations. Defendants
don`t know they have committed a crime until a
prosecutor springs his interpretation on them. You can`t
get laws more vague than this.

Martha Stewart was

sent to prison
for allegedly lying to a prosecutor
about a non-crime, and she wasn`t even under oath. She
was a victim of the prosecutor`s desire to gain name
recognition with a high profile case in order to run for
political office.

Prosecutors are in the process of
criminalizing the protections that were put in our legal
system to protect the innocent, such as the
attorney-client privilege. We have reached the point
where an attorney who does too good of a job defending
his client can be indicted for aiding and abetting a

Prosecutors have destroyed the rule
of law and put rule by prosecutors in its place.

Decades ago attorney generals such
as Robert Jackson told prosecutors that they had a

twofold duty:
to the law and to the defendant. Their
job, he told them, was to serve justice through a fair
trial, not to gain a conviction at all cost.

Prosecutors no longer hear such
instructions. Defendants, whether innocent or guilty,
quickly learn that they are not going to get a fair
trial and that a jury will not be presented with a fair
case. Defendants incriminate themselves with a plea
bargain, because the penalties from going to trial are
much heavier.

In 95 out of 100 cases, the
evidence against the defendant is never tested in court.
This has corrupted police work. It is easier to round up
the usual suspects than to solve a case. High recidivism
rates may simply reflect the practice of rounding up
those with records.

A good indicator of the corruption
of the criminal justice system is the departure of
compassion. I can remember when prosecutors would
investigate the defendant`s side of the story and when
police were helpful and used judgment in exercising
their authority. Now they go out of their way to ruin
people. In the news recently, police arrested two little
boys, seven and eight years old, for fighting. They
handcuffed and booked the children. Police traumatized a
twelve year old girl by

handcuffing and booking
her for
eating a french fry
in a Washington DC metro

Recently a father was arrested for
child abuse because he had his two year old with him
when his truck broke down at 3 AM. The father was put in
jail and the kid was put in custody. Whatever stress the
father was under was certainly worsened by the poor
judgment of the police.

The days are long gone when the
police would have called a tow truck and given the
father and baby a ride home.

Roberts, [
him] a former Associate Editor of the

Wall Street Journal and a
former Contributing Editor of
National Review
was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during the
Reagan administration. He  is
the author of

The Supply-Side Revolution

and, with Lawrence M. Stratton, of

The Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors and
Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name
of Justice

for Peter
Magazine interview with Roberts about the recent
epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct.