Last week we gave an update on the status of the Department of Justice inquiry into prosecutorial misconduct at the hands of federal prosecutors in New Orleans. Last year, two of former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten’s top prosecutors were discovered posting improper comments and confidential information under pseudonyms on Nola.com about cases that their office was handling. It is alleged that those comments prejudiced defendants being prosecuted by Letten’s office.
Yesterday, the Associated Press joined a local New Orleans paper, The Times-Picayune, in requesting that a federal judge unseal court documents pertaining to the investigation into Letten’s office, which has been ongoing since November, 2012. From an Associated Press article:“As The Times-Picayune’s memorandum already demonstrates, the First Amendment’s qualified right of public access to judicial proceedings and records in criminal cases applies regardless of the public status of the defendant, the nature of the crimes charged, or any allegations of prosecutorial misconduct,” AP lawyers wrote. … Attorneys for the officers convicted at trial [in the Danziger Bridge cases] claim that a series of leaks to the media, including about Lohman’s guilty plea, were part of a “secret public relations campaign” designed to influence the pool of prospective jurors. They have asked Engelhardt to order a new trial. “Not only is the federal prosecutors’ conduct questioned in the post-conviction proceedings, but a substantial allegation of intentional jury tainting has been made,” AP attorneys wrote.