Access to The Champion archive is one of many exclusive member benefits. It’s normally restricted to just NACDL members. However, this content, and others like it, is available to everyone in order to educate the public on why criminal justice reform is a necessity.
On May 24, 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice revealed the only two disciplinary actions it has taken in the investigation of professional misconduct leading to the indictment and conviction of the late senator from Alaska, Ted Stevens. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph W. Bottini, a lawyer with over 25 years of service, was suspended for 40 days without pay. AUSA James Goeke, an attorney with eight years of experience, received a 15-day suspension. A copy of Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich’s May 24 letter explaining the disciplinary actions is available at http://legaltimes.typepad.com/files/stevens2.pdf.
Specifically, the DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) found that Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph W. Bottini:
- failed to disclose information provided by prosecution witness Bill Allen that was inconsistent with Allen’s later interviews and trial testimony, information that was clearly Brady material, and failed to correct Allen’s testimony at trial;
- failed to disclose information in the possession of the FBI and the IRS regarding Stevens’ willingness to repay VECO for the renovations; and
- failed to disclose information provided to the government by a VECO witness, Robert Williams, that he thought VECO’s costs would be added to the contractor’s invoices before the invoices were sent to Stevens.
Bipartisan legislation is pending in the U.S. Senate designed to prevent this kind of misconduct in the future, intentional or not. The bill was introduced on March 15 of this year, the same day as the release of the of the special prosecutor’s report on the wrongful prosecution of Stevens. Entitled the “Fairness in Disclosure of Evidence Act of 2012,” the bill’s lead sponsors are Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Sen. Dan Inouye (D-Hawaii). (A link to the legislation can be found on NACDL’s website at www.nacdl.org/discoveryreform.)
As NACDL President Lisa Monet Wayne explained the day the Stevens report was released and this important legislation was introduced, “The duty to provide favorable evidence has often been misunderstood or ignored. Even well-intentioned prosecutors lack the clear statutory guidance necessary to ensure the full and prompt disclosure to the defense of favorable evidence. That lack of disclosure contributes to unjust and wrongful prosecutions and convictions. This legislation fixes that problem.” President Wayne added that “the ‘Fairness in Disclosure of Evidence Act of 2012’ provides clear and meaningful standards governing the prosecution’s duty to disclose any and all evidence that could help the accused defend her case. Its passage would represent a giant step forward in improving the fairness and accuracy of our criminal justice system.”
In addition to NACDL, this legislation is supported by the American Bar Association (ABA), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Constitution Project, and the Institute for Legal Reform at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
NACDL has worked for years seeking sensible discovery reform in the context of criminal prosecutions. A link to NACDL’s video, “America Needs Sensible Discovery Reform,” as well as a wealth of materials on the subject, can be found at www.nacdl.org/discoveryreform.
A Defender’s Guide to Federal Evidence: A Trial Practice Handbook for Criminal Defense Attorneys
This Guide to Federal Evidence is the only federal evidence handbook written exclusively for criminal defense lawyers. The Guide analyzes each Federal Rule of Evidence and outlines the main evidentiary issues that confront criminal defense lawyers. It also summarizes countless defense favorable cases and provides tips on how to avoid common evidentiary pitfalls. The Guide contains multiple user-friendly flowcharts aimed at helping the criminal defense lawyer tackle evidence problems. A Defender’s Guide to Federal Evidence is an indispensable tool in preparing a case for trial.
Modern Digital Evidence & Technologies in Criminal Cases
Modern cases need modern defenses, and modern lawyers can't practice with an outdated playbook. This program is a contemporary training that identifies emerging technologies and digital evidence encountered in today's criminal cases and arms you with the tools necessary to combat expert witnesses, prosecutorial overreach, and an uneducated judge and jury. This comprehensive CLE program covers both general aspects of new technologies as well as practical courtroom application and legal challenges to the use of these new technologies.
Top Shelf DUI Defenses: The Law, The Science, The Techniques (2021)
If you are serious about being an effective DUI defense advocate, or if you’re considering adding DUI defenses to your portfolio, you need to know the latest scientific and legal strategies to optimize your success at trial. Learn from the best-of-the-best in the field in this unique CLE Program, updated for 2021.
Defending Modern Drug Cases (2021)
From challenging the arrest and seizure to picking a jury and cross-examining police officers, defense attorneys handling drug cases must be able to construct a defense that will increase the chances of the client getting a positive result for your client.
Effective motion practice, juror selection, and storytelling have never been more important. This seminar will introduce defense counsel to techniques that have been used at recent drug trials to rebut specific claims and overcome the emotion created in today’s criminal legal system.