Two From The Ethics Alarms “I Don’t Understand This At All” Files…Part II: The Bad Cop Catch-22

In 1995, Darryl Howard [above] was wrongfully convicted of murder and imprisoned for more than two decades, one of many egregious miscarriages of justice during that period in Durham, North Carolina. Mike NiFong, the infamous prosecutor who pursued the Duke Lacrosse case, prosecuted him, and a Durham detective named Darrell Dowdy fabricated evidence while doing a negligent investigation. The Innocence Project helped free Howard; in 2016, the convictions were vacated and the DA who succeeded NiFong dismissed the charges. In April 2021, Gov. Roy Cooper officially pardoned Howard, who sued the city and Dowdy, and in December, a federal jury found former Detective  Dowdy had indeed framed him. A jury awarded Howard $6 million.

Durham, however, is refusing to pay and wants Howard to pay the legal fees of of two city employees who were eventually dismissed from the suit.

“I proved my innocence. I went through every court. Every judge says what this was, even the governor,” Howard told the Raleigh News & Observer. “Now I have to fight again.” Durham’s employees robbed Howard of the prime years of his life, but the city has tried every legal tactic to avoid addressing the injustice it was responsible for inflicting on him. One of its arguments is that since Howard had a record of various crimes and convictions before he was wrongly sent to prison for murder, it shouldn’t have to compensate him as if he were a model citizen.

Head explosion time. That’s one of the most unethical and illogical arguments I’ve ever heard a government make. Continue reading

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

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

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