It’s Time To Fire And Discipline Marilyn Mosby

Mosby in 2015, ruining lives, pandering to the mob, and undermining justice...

Mosby in 2015, ruining lives, pandering to the mob, and undermining justice…

The third (of six) indicted Baltimore police officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray was acquitted last week, and how the rest of the trials, if they even occur, will play out is now a foregone conclusion. To be fair, this was a forgone conclusion from that moment that Baltimore City Attorney Marilyn Mosby charged the officers a year ago without sufficient justification beyond her own political ambitions, those of her husband (who is now running for mayor), racial bias and a desire to mollify rioters. Most commentators believed the charges were premature, rushed to avoid civic unrest. To say that is really to say that she allowed a mob to dictate to law enforcement. This was unethical, dangerous and despicable then, and remains so today.

If officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., who drove the police transport van in which Gray suffered the spinal cord injury that killed him, could not be found guilty of intentionally killing Freddie Gray, nobody can. Says the New York Times,

“His acquittal on seven counts leaves the state without any convictions after three trials, in one of the nation’s most closely watched police misconduct cases — and continues to leave open the question of what, exactly, happened to Mr. Gray inside the van….Judge Barry G. Williams, who presided over the Goodson trial, issued the verdicts to a hushed, packed courtroom. He drew no conclusions about exactly when during the van ride Mr. Gray got hurt, saying there were several “equally plausible scenarios.” And he rejected the state’s contention that the officer had given Mr. Gray an intentional “rough ride” and knowingly endangered him by failing to buckle him into the van or provide medical help.” 

The prosecutor isn’t supposed to ruin the lives and careers of presumptively innocent law enforcement officials to try to find out what happened to Freddie Gray. The prosecutor is supposed to investigate until sufficient evidence tells her that a crime was committed, and the she has enough of that evidence to get a legitimate conviction. The three trials have shown that such evidence either doesn’t exist, or was never found. No, we don’t know what killed Freddie Gray, and that’s called “reasonable doubt.” Continue reading

Wanetta Gibson, Elizabeth Paige Coast, Chaneya Kelly, Cassandra Kennedy and the Alkon Formula: How Should We Punish False Rape Victims?

Coast: How much compassion does she deserve?

Coast: How much compassion does she deserve?

Commenting on the case of Elizabeth Paige Coast, a Virginia woman who finally came forward last year to confess that in 2008 she had falsely accused Johnathan C. Montgomery, a former neighbor, of raping her in 2000 when she was 10 years old and he was 14, advice columnist and blogger Amy Alkorn proposes this sentencing formula:

“I feel strongly that those who falsely accuse someone of rape should spend the amount of time incarcerated that the person they falsely accused would have.”

Coast’s victim was convicted of rape and  spent four years in jail as a result of her lies. As for Coast, she was recently sentenced by Hampton Circuit Court Judge Bonnie L. Jones to only two months in jail, plus being required to pay Montgomery $90,000 in restitution for de-railing his life. The judge suspended the rest of a five-year sentence, and is allowing Coast to serve the remainder on weekends so not to unduly disrupt her life.

Coast’s lawyer had argued any jailing would send the wrong message to others who lie about false rapes. The prosecutor, agreeing with Alkon, asked for a 10-year sentence with six years suspended so she would serve the same length of time as Montgomery. It seems the judge agreed with the defense more than Alkon. I think Alkon is closer to the mark, but if we make the punishment for recanting rape accusers too severe, it is probably going to mean that some in Coast’s position will choose to let their victim rot and just live with a guilty conscience. Continue reading

Are Conviction Bonuses For Prosecutors Ethical?

Next, how about a bonus for confessions?

Sometimes a story starts the ethics alarms ringing so loudly that it is hard to think about anything else. It is rare, however, to have this occur when it is not entirely clear what is so unethical. An unusual bonus arrangement in Colorado is in this category.

Carol Chambers, the District Attorney for Colorado’s Eighteenth Judicial District, offers financial incentives for felony prosecutors who meet her office’s goals for convictions.  Plea bargains and mistrials don’t count in the incentive program; they have to be trial convictions.  The bonuses average $1,100, and Chambers says she gives them out to encourage prosecutors to bring her district’s rates in line with other jurisdictions in the state. No other Colorado DA gives out bonuses, or bases evaluations on conviction rates. Continue reading

The Unethical Character Assassination of Albert Gore, Jr.

Not one but two celebrities have recently had their public image and reputation battered by the publishing of police reports that they had been accused of sexual misconduct in alleged incidents that could not be confirmed sufficiently for the police to bring charges. One was New York Mets ace pitcher Johan Santana, who was already battling uncharacteristic ineffectiveness on the mound. The other was former Vice-President Al Gore, who also has more than enough problems in his life: such as a shattered marriage, a reeling climate change policy campaign, and the lingering memory that he received the most votes in a Presidential election yet somehow never got to live in the White House. Santana’s reputation will survive if he recovers the location on his fast ball. Al Gore, however, is genuinely and seriously harmed by the claims of a masseuse who says that Gore attempted to turn her professional massage into a forced sexual encounter. Continue reading

No More Presumption of Good Will For Unethical Prosecutors

The horrible Duke lacrosse team rape prosecution in 2006 had one very bright silver lining. It finally forced the majority of Americans to accept that prosecutors are as capable of being unethical  as any other attorney, and that because their misdeeds carry the extra weight of government power, prosecutorial misconduct must be exposed and condemned.

Thus it is a relief that the recent blatant abuse of power by Commonwealth of Virginia Attorney Martha Garst is being roundly attacked. Continue reading

Death Video Ethics

As with the video of the fatal luge run at the Olympics, as with 9-11 videos of the Twin Towers crashing down, pundits, lawyers and family members of a victim are arguing in courts of law and public opinion that the visual record of their loved one’s death should be off-limits for public. The family of Dawn Brancheau, the SeaWorld trainer who was drowned last month by a six-ton Killer Whale that held her underwater by her ponytail,  has announced that they will seek an injunction to stop the release of the death videos, captured by SeaWorld’s surveillance cameras on Feb. 24. Once the official investigation is complete, the video could be made widely available on YouTube and elsewhere. The family understandably does not want their daughter’s last moments to become a source of web entertainment. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Rep. Bobby Scott

A popular, effective and unethical prosecutorial practice among federal investigators is to coerce  businesses and individuals into waiving the attorney client privilege by threatening indictments. The privilege of having absolutely private communications with one’s attorneys in order to get legal advice is a linchpin of the justice system and each citizen’s access to fair treatment under the law.  Forcing individuals to give the privilege up under threat of prosecution is and has always been wrong; after all, a waiver made under a threat is hardly “voluntary.”  U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott, (D-Va.), has now introduced H.R. 4326, complementing legislation filed in the Senate earlier this year by U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, to bar this practice. Continue reading