A serial murderer and his girlfriend who initially faced the death penalty have been allowed to plea their cases out following revelations that the government committed discovery violations and secretly intercepted communications between defendant Joey Pedersen and his attorneys. According to the judge who oversaw the cases, Pedersen and his co-defendant were able to use the government’s conduct as “leverage” to secure plea agreements.
Now, the assistant U.S. Attorneys prosecuting the case will face an investigation by the Oregon State Bar for allegations of misconduct.
In a 63 page opinion (available here), U.S. District Judge Ancer Haggerty says the government nearly jeopardized Pedersen’s case altogether through its improper conduct, which included:
- The destroying of and failure to disclose Brady material by a police detective on the case,
- The failure to turn over discovery in a timely manner: “the government had produced a total of ninety-seven volumes of discovery, thirteen of which were produced prior to the discovery deadline.” (p. 23)
- The violation of Pedersen’s right to counsel through the interception of jail letters and phone calls between he and his attorneys.
Haggerty observed, “much of [the government’s] conduct appears to have stemmed from systemic problems and is likely recur absent corrective action.”
Though Haggerty wrote that the issue of whether the prosecutors acted in “bad faith” was no longer before the court, former Washington County District Attorney Scott Upham forwarded the judge’s opinion to the Oregon state bar. The bar responded by announcing it would investigate the three assistant U.S. Attorneys involved in the case, according to The Oregonian:
The complaints for Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jane Shoemaker, Hannah Horsley and Kelly Zusman are being forwarded to the bar’s disciplinary committee for investigation, said Scott Morrill, the assistant general counsel for the bar’s client assistance office. Morrill this week confirmed the decision to investigate.
Zusman says she is confident that she and her colleagues will be vindicated through the investigation. U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall told The Oregonian that her office is seeking to remedy the issues highlighted in Haggerty’s opinion:
She said managing discovery in the electronic age is a problem affecting prosecutors throughout the country and that her office has devoted more resources and focus on managing and tracking discovery. She has promoted a prosecutor to be in charge of training others on handling discovery obligations.