Tina K. Russell

June 24, 2008

No justice here

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Tina Russell @ 9:11 pm

Doubting Case, a Prosecutor Helped the Defense – NYTimes.com
The Manhattan district attorney, Robert M. Morgenthau, had a problem. The murder convictions of two men in one of his office’s big cases — the 1990 shooting of a bouncer outside the Palladium nightclub — had been called into question by a stream of new evidence.

So the office decided on a re-examination, led by a 21-year veteran assistant, Daniel L. Bibb.

Mr. Bibb spent nearly two years reinvestigating the killing and reported back: He believed that the two imprisoned men were not guilty, and that their convictions should be dropped. Yet top officials told him, he said, to go into a court hearing and defend the case anyway. He did, and in 2005 he lost.

But in a recent interview, Mr. Bibb made a startling admission: He threw the case. Unwilling to do what his bosses ordered, he said, he deliberately helped the other side win.

Mr. Bibb said he shared his growing doubts with his superiors. And at a meeting in early 2005, he recalled, after defense lawyers won court approval for a hearing into the new evidence, he urged that the convictions be set aside. “I made what I considered to be my strongest pitch,” he said.

Instead, he said, he was ordered to go to the hearing, present the government’s case and let a judge decide — a strategy that violated his sense of a prosecutor’s duty.

Still, Mr. Bibb said, he worried that if he did not take the case, another prosecutor would — and possibly win.

Today, Mr. Bibb says he does not believe he crossed any line.

“I didn’t work for the other side,” he said. “I worked for what I thought was the right thing.”

That’s kind of beautiful, but still disturbing. If a prosecutor does not believe in the truth of his case, he should recuse himself, not throw the case entirely by intentionally botching it. If the prosecutor is convinced that the man he’s prosecuting is innocent, that does not make him qualified to trick his colleagues, colleagues tasked with finding impartial justice, into finding the man innocent. He is a prosecutor, not a detective, not a jurist, and not a judge. Throwing the case not only defrauds his employer–the people–of requested services, it appoints him to judge and jury of a case that aleady stinks to high heaven.

Police often do the same thing, by fabricating and trumping up evidence against someone they sincerely believe is guilty (known as “framing a guilty man”). That’s still bad; it’s deciding, on your own, to take more power than society has alloted you, more power than you have been permitted, and have stated yourself, to represent.

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