And all this time I believed that TNT reality star Kelly Siegler was a real star prosecutor who had actually convicted guilty people while observing the law and professional ethics.
That was the sound of my brains exploding through the top of my skull, this time because they deserved to. I never learn.
Or is the state of prosecutorial ethics in the United States so wretched that Kelly Siegler is the best ex-prosecutor that TNT could find?
I’ll stick my neck out and say, “no.” I say that even though the state of prosecutorial ethics is pretty terrible. Kelly Siegler left her job as a Harris County, Texas district attorney in 2008 after successfully prosecuting 68 murder trials. In 2013, TNT signed her up to star in a reality show called“Cold Justice,” now in its third season on the cable network.
Good title! A state-court judge recommended a new trial for a Texas inmate named David Temple, prosecuted by Siegler in 2007 for allegedly killing his pregnant wife. He was convicted, but the court says the “legendary prosecutor” illegally withheld critical exculpatory evidence. Wrote Judge Larry Gist in his opinion calling for a re-trial: “Of enormous significance was Siegler’s testimony at the habeas hearing that apparently favorable evidence did not need to be disclosed if the state did not believe it was true.”
Now that’s an interesting take on the Brady requirement that the state has to turn over potentially exculpatory evidence! Note that any time a prosecutor believes that exculpatory evidence is “true,” as in “it shows the defendant isn’t guilty,” then the prosecutor is ethically obligated to drop the case and let the accused go.
In his opinion, Gist listed 35 more examples of likely unethical conduct by Siegler.
For example, in the case of Howard Guidry, also convicted of murder, Siegler never revealed to Guidry’s defense lawyers that investigators found fingerprints at the crime scene that did not match Guidry’s precisely where the police thought the killer would have stood as he fired the fatal shots. Those fingerprints belonged to another suspect in the case that actually resembled Guidry. A federal appeals case also ruled that Siegler “admitted unlawful confessions into evidence and used hearsay evidence” to convict Guidry.
Now lawyers are examining all of Siegler’s 68 murder trials to see how many other people she sent to jail while robbing them of a fair trial.
To recap, as of now the only real-life prosecutor who is being represented in the popular culture as a champion of justice appears to be the worst of the breed: a cheat, an ambitious and ruthless DA who bent the law and risked ruining the lives of innocent citizens to gain convictions even at the risk of allowing the real guilty individuals to escape punishment.
TNT should be fairer to Siegler than she was to the justice system. Since the ex-prosecutor turned reality star—you know, like Donald Trump—insists that she did nothing wrong, the network should forgo firing her until the determination that she violated the ethics rules as well as the law is final. Then it should fire her. It should pull the show from the schedule now, however, pending that determination. Bad prosecutors are a curse on the justice system and do terrible damage to it, the public trust and the innocent people whose lives and reputations they help destroy. Publicizing one of them as a star of the profession warps public values and risks making the system more unjust by rewarding unethical conduct with money and fame.
You know, TNT, there really are ethical ex-prosecutors who followed the rules and sought justice, not just convictions. The question is, would any of those ethical prosecutors be willing to star in a reality show?
Pointer: Res Ipsa