We’ve had a few-week hiatus from new posts and wanted to return with a summary of some of the key news from the month of May. We hope that this will help you catch up on items of particular interest. Also, you can follow us on Twitter @openfilesite
In Massachusetts, the Board of Bar Overseers has recommended that Cape and Islands prosecutor Laura Marshard be suspended for one month for her ethical violations. The full board’s recommendation is harsher than an earlier committee’s suggestion that she simply face a public reprimand. For context on this recommendation, you can see our previous coverage of this rare instance in which a state bar is pursuing discipline against a sitting prosecutor: in May of 2017 and in December of 2017.
In Nevada, the prosecutorial landscape in Las Vegas is getting more interesting by the day. About a week ago, an excellent story was published in The Appeal (a recently launched publication formerly called In Justice Today) documenting the Clark County District Attorney’s office’s record of ignoring discovery rules. The DA, Steve Wolfson, also faces scrutiny for other reasons: a story broke this year about his decision to quietly spare one of his aides from serious felony charges though she stole some $42,000 from his campaign several years ago. On cue, a longtime defense attorney named Rob Langford has filed papers to run against the incumbent. This is a race worth watching.
Meanwhile, in Louisiana, the Caddo Parish District Attorney’s office agreed to a plea that freed Corey Williams from Louisiana State Penitentiary, where he spent 20 years though prosecutors had withheld evidence pointing to his innocence for nearly that entire time. We had covered his story several times over the years. In 2015, we brought attention to the case when the pile of exculpatory evidence the State suppressed finally came to light but the state courts denied him relief. We also covered his defense team’s cert petition to the U.S. Supreme Court in April this year—a petition the State avoided responding to by reaching the deal to release Mr. Williams. While Mr. Williams’s freedom is deserved, in making a deal, the State managed to avoid the Brady slap-down it so richly deserves.
The Nebraska Supreme Court recently did what courts seem to do so well: acknowledged a high-profile prosecutor went too far, but failed to provide the defendant any remedy for the State’s misconduct. But, so it goes, as many studies have shown that the vast majority of cases infected by prosecutorial misconduct result in nothing more than a finding unaccompanied by a punishment, remedy to the defendant, or professional discipline against the responsible lawyer.
Lastly, in a case of continued interest, the chief judge of the D.C. Superior Court found that prosecutors withheld exculpatory information in the J20 prosecution against six Inauguration Day protesters. The Assistant US Attorney responsible for the suppression, Jennifer Kerkhoff, also lied directly to the judge, claiming earlier that the only video edits were done to conceal the identities of certain individuals. In reality, the edits cut out evidence indicating that the defendants lacked knowledge the State claims they had about critical aspects of the protests.