Prosecutorial misconduct has led courts in Kansas and Georgia to overturn convictions for child sex crimes in recent weeks.
In Georgia, a man sentenced to 25 years in prison for child molestation has won a new trial after prosecutors failed to disclose that the child victim had recanted part of his testimony prior to trial. The defendant was convicted on one count of aggravated child molestation, with the jury dismissing a second count. Fulton County Assistant District Attorney Demone Lee told a juror after the trial that he had not questioned the defendant about one of the two counts against him because the victim said it never happened, but Lee kept the charge to “see what the jury would do with it”. The defendant’s lawyers overheard Lee and filed an appeal, which was granted. It appears that the prosecutor violated at least two ethical rules by (1) failing to disclose the victim’s partial recantation to defense counsel and (2) allowing the victim to testify to something the victim had previously denied, in violation of Lee’s obligation to correct false testimony.
In Kansas, the state supreme court reversed a former Inman police chief’s convictions on 15 counts of child sex crimes last week, citing prosecutorial misconduct. The Court found that Assistant Attorney General Christine Ladner delivered an improper closing statement, referred to and argued facts not in evidence, and improperly vouched for the credibility of witnesses. With no physical evidence to support the case the prosecution relied heavily on the testimony of its witnesses, making their credibility a key issue at trial. Ladner repeatedly referred to the “grooming” of the victims though there was no evidence to support her assertion, and commented on her own witnesses’ credibility and the untruthfulness of the defendant. The Kansas Supreme Court characterized her misconduct as “gross and flagrant” and “motivated by prosecutorial ill will”.
In the Georgia case, the prosecutor’s office acknowledged the harm done by the suppression of evidence and agreed to a new trial for the defendant. The Attorney General’s office in Kansas has said it is reviewing the Supreme Court’s decision and did not offer any comments.
Read a previous post here on the reversal of a child sex case in Connecticut following the improper argument of a prosecutor in closing late last year.