Tuesday, October 5, 2010

10-10-05 LA Times - UC study showed prosecutors commit misconduct with impunity in California

Report finds many prosecutors in California have committed misconduct

A law school study discovers 707 cases in which state, U.S. and appellate courts found misconduct in opinions between 1997 and 2009. The authors criticize the State Bar for disciplining only 6 prosecutors.

Hundreds of prosecutors in California — including many in Los Angeles County — have committed misconduct with near impunity as authorities failed to either report or discipline them, according to a report released Monday.
The misconduct ranged from asking witnesses improper questions during trial to failing to turn over evidence that could help a defendant and presenting false evidence in court, according to the report, which was issued by an innocence project at the Santa Clara University School of Law.
The researchers discovered 707 cases in which state and federal courts and appellate courts found prosecutorial misconduct in opinions issued between 1997 and 2009. Of those, 67 prosecutors committed misconduct in more than one case, including three who committed misconduct four times and two who did so five times.
The authors of the report said most prosecutors follow the law and act ethically, but they criticized the State Bar for disciplining only six prosecutors during the period covered by the study.

"Prosecutors aren't held accountable," said Maurice Possley, an award-winning journalist who worked on the study by the Northern California Innocence Project. "Absent that, why should they change their habits?"
The researchers called for legal reform to require that courts forward all findings of misconduct to the State Bar, which investigates allegations of attorney misconduct. Courts are not currently required to forward cases in which they decide the misconduct was harmless.
Scott Thorpe, chief executive of the California District Attorneys Assn., criticized the report for exaggerating the scale and severity of prosecutorial misconduct.
He noted that courts found that prosecutorial misconduct was serious enough to reverse a case or take some other significant action in 159 instances — a small fraction of the more than 4,000 appeals that alleged misconduct. In the remaining cases where misconduct was found, appellate courts concluded that the prosecutor's actions did not undermine a defendant's right to a fair trial.
Thorpe said his association and district attorney's offices around the state put on regular ethics training seminars for prosecutors.
"I'm not in any way implying that prosecutors have not been guilty of misconduct," Thorpe said. But he said the report was "just not an accurate reflection."
In response to the report, State Bar officials said discipline is not always appropriate when appellate courts find misconduct. Misconduct can occur when prosecutors act unintentionally or where their errors were relatively minor, Russell Weiner, the agency's deputy chief trial counsel, said in a statement.
The agency also has the option of sending prosecutors warning letters or private reprovals for first-time offenders in cases that are not egregious, Weiner said.
But the report's authors said that district attorneys and the State Bar should be more open with the public about the actions they take — if any — against prosecutors who commit misconduct.
"Transparency is critical," said Cookie Ridolfi, a Santa Clara University School of Law professor and executive director of the innocence project.
She and Possley faulted appellate courts for frequently omitting the names of attorneys found to have committed prosecutorial misconduct. The innocence project researched the names of prosecutors in 600 cases and has included them with summaries of the cases on its website, veritasinitiative.org.
The report said courts found misconduct by Orange County prosecutor Mike Flory on five occasions. In one case, an appeals court ruled that he improperly used race as a criteria for selecting jurors. In another, he was criticized for noting in his argument to the jury that the defendant was not present in court — despite the judge telling Flory not to.
Flory said he never intended to exclude jurors based on their race and regretted his comment about the absent defendant, which occurred more than a decade ago. He noted that the appeals court found that four of the five cases involved "harmless error."
"I am an aggressive prosecutor," Flory said. "Does that mean that I purposely set out to conduct misconduct? I don't think so."
The report singled out Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Grace Rai as "a striking example of repeat prosecutorial misconduct that has not been publicly disciplined."
In 2008, an appeals court overturned a murder conviction after finding that the prosecutor disobeyed a court order, asked improper questions and committed other misconduct. Two years earlier, an appeals court concluded that Rai probably intentionally violated a court order in another murder case but that the conduct did not prevent the defendant from receiving a fair trial.
Rai did not return calls for comment Monday.
The report found that prosecutorial misconduct has far-reaching consequences, including the conviction of the innocent, new trials for the guilty and a large cost to taxpayers who foot the bill for new trials and legal settlements.
Among the cases the report's authors highlighted as egregious was that of Mark Sodersten, whose 1986 murder conviction in Tulare County was overturned in 2007, months after he died in prison. An appellate court ruled that the prosecutor, Phil Cline, failed to give the defense audiotapes of interviews he conducted with a 5-year-old witness that could have shown her testimony was unreliable.
The appellate court found that "those whose duty it was to see justice done neglected or ignored that duty." The innocence project faulted the State Bar for not taking action against Cline.
Cline, now the district attorney of Tulare County, said the courts never found he intentionally withheld the tapes. He insisted he did provide them to the defense but was unable to prove it because he had not kept records of doing so.
"Hooking us into prosecutorial misconduct is just wrong," he said.

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[1] 10-10-05 The Los Angeles Jewish/legal community again asked to assume accountability for conduct of Bet Tzedek -”The House of Justice”
The Los Angeles Jewish/legal community again asked to assume accountability for conduct of Bet Tzedek -”The House of Justice” Los Angeles, October 05 – following recent reports of questionable transactions having been conducted under the label of Bet Tzedek - “The House of Justice” - Human Rights Alert (NGO) re-issued its June 11, 2010 release, which already then called upon the Los Angeles Jewish/legal community to assume accountability for the conduct of Bet Tzedek -”The House of Justice”.[1] Combined, concerns must be heighten that Bet Tzedek, “The House of Justice”, has evolved into a mixed use organization. While it may still be an effective provider of free legal services, it also doubles as the seat of various other enterprises. Human Rights Alert also called attention to the Human Rights Alert April 2010 submission to the United Nations, which was recently been given a note and a reference in the United Nations Human Rights Council staff report of corruption of the courts, the legal profession, and law enforcement in Los Angeles County, California. [2] Human Rights Alert also highlighted the significance of recent publication in an international, Compute Science, peer-reviewed journal of papers, which documented and opined fraud in the electronic case management and online public access systems of the courts and prisons in Los Angeles County, Califonria. [3] LINKS/ATTACHMENTS [1] June 11, 2010 release by Human Rights Alert. Copied below. [2] 10-10-02 Human Rights Alert's report pertaining to corruption of the courts, the legal profession, and law enforcement in Los Angeles County, California, was noted by the United Nations: http://human-rights-alert.blogspot.com/2010/10/10-10-02-human-rights-alert-ngo-got.html [3] Recently pubilshed in a peer-reviewed, Computer Science journal: a) 10-08-18 Zernik, J: Data Mining as a Civic Duty – Online Public Prisoners’ Registration Systems, International Journal on Social Media: Monitoring, Measurement, Mining 1: 84-96 (2010) http://www.scribd.com/doc/38328591/ b) 10-08-18 Zernik, J: Data Mining of Online Judicial Records of the Networked US Federal Courts, International Journal on Social Media: Monitoring, Measurement, Mining, 1:69-83 (2010) http://www.scribd.com/doc/38328585/
public Category: Business/Law Reads: 4 Published: 10 / 04 / 2010
[2] 10-01-10 United Nations Human Rights Council Records for 2010 Review (UPR) of Human Rights in the United States
10-10-02 Human Rights Alert's report pertaining to corruption of the courts, the legal profession, and law enforcement in Los Angeles County, California, was noted by the United Nations Los Angeles, October 2 - Human Rights Alert (NGO), a young organization, with no resources at all, got a mention and a reference in the report staff report of the Human Rights Council (HRC) of the United Nations, [1] as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Human Rights in the United States. Page 8: HRAlert referred to corruption in the courts and the legal profession, and discrimination of US law enforcement in California. 69 Notes: 69 HRAlert, pages 1-5. See submission for cases cited. The evidence provided by Human Rights Alert pertained to large-scale false imprisonment at the criminal courts, and real estate fraud in collusion with large financial institutions and law-firms at the civil courts. The HRC report reference was somewhat cryptic regarding "discrimination of US law enforcement in California." It pertained to allegations in the Human Rights Alert report of discrimination by law enforcement against Los Angeles County, California, for at least two decades, through refusal of US law enforcement to address overwhelming evidence of racketeering by judges of the Los Angeles Superior Court. Discrimination against a region of the country is a violation of Human Rights, in and of itself. The Human Rights Alert report to the United Nations provided evidence of such discrimination through conduct of KENNETH KAISER -FBI Assistant Director for Criminal Investigations, and KENNETH MELSON - former Director of US Department of Justice Office of US Attorneys. The report also provided evidence of patronizing of the conduct of the Los Angeles Superior Court by the United States courts - National Tribunals for Protection of Rights pursuant to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - from the US District Court, Central District of California, through the US Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit, to the Supreme Court of the United States. Much larger organizations, and even Joint Reports of consortia of organizations got no mention at all. The HRC report was issued as part of the UPR process, established by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2006. In April 2010, over 100 organizations filed reports as "stakeholders" as part of the review process. In August 2010 the US State Department filed its response. Albeit, the State Department report simply ignored the reports of stakeholders and the HRC staff, and was largely self-congratulatory. Review session regarding Human Rights in the United States is scheduled for November 5, 2010 in Geneva. Human Rights Alert (NGO) is dedicated to discovering, archiving, and disseminating evidence of Human Rights violations by the justice systems of the State of California and the United States in Los Angeles, California, and beyond. Special emphasis is given to the unique role of computerized case management systems in the precipitous deterioration of integrity of the justice system. LINKS [1] 10-01-10 United Nations Human Rights Council Records for 2010 Review (UPR) of Human Rights in the United States http://www.scribd.com/doc/38566837/
public Category: Business/Law Reads: 79 Published: 10 / 02 / 2010
[3] 09-02-09 Transcript of Senator Leahy speach, calling for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in re US Justice Department s
PO Box 526, La Verne, CA 91750 Fax: 323.488.9697; Email: jz12345@earthlink.net Blog: http://human-rights-alert.blogspot.com/ Scribd: http://www.scribd.com/Human_Rights_Alert Human Rights Alert Digitally signed by Joseph Zernik DN: cn=Joseph Zernik, o, ou, email=jz12345@e arthlink.net, c=US Date: 2010.08.05 16:33:09 +03'00' 09-02-09 Transcript of Senator Leahy Call for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in re: United States Justice Department It is great to be back at Georgetown. It was at
public Category: Business/Law Reads: 19 Published: 09 / 30 / 2010

[1] 10-05-05 Countrywide, Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), and its President Brian Moynihan - Compilation of Records - Evidence of Racketeering s
The record includes a short overview and links to some 80 records which are the evidence itself. See an updated, expanded list of evidence with links to records and short descriptions under: http://www.scribd.com/doc/32907453/ 10-06-11-Dr-Zernik-s-Complaints-Filed-with-Office-of-Comptroller-of-the-Currency-and-SEC-against-Countrywide-Bank-of-America-NYSE-BAC-and-Brian-Mo
public Category: Business/Law Reads: 8341 Published: 05 / 06 / 2010[2] 10-01-04 Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department: Online Inmate Information Center - Data Survey - Jose Martinez s
In the course of attempting to secure the Human Rights of Richard Fine, it became apparent that the case management system of the Los Angeles Sheriff Department, like database management systems of the courts, suffers from lack of integrity. The Sheriff's system must be of particular concern - it allowed arbitrary deprivation of liberty. See also similar series constructed for: 1) Jose Rodriguez http://www.scribd.com/doc/25064776/ 10-01-11-Inmate-Information-Center-data-survey-Jose-Rodriguez-s 2) John Smith http://www.scribd.com/doc/24816245/ 10-01-05 Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department: Online Inmate Information Center - Data Sur Please see also review paper: http://www.scribd.com/doc/32470740/ 10-06-03-Data-Mining-as-a-Civic-Duty-Online-Public-Prisoners-Registration-Systems-draft-scholarly-paper-s
public Category: Business/Law Reads: 7562 Published: 01 / 05 / 2010[3] 10-01-05 Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department: Online Inmate Information Center - Data Survey - John Smith s
Efforts to secure the Human Rights of Richard Fine revealed material deficiencies in the case management system of the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department - Inmate Information Center. Given the limited access to data, indirect efforts were made to produce initial assessment of system integrity.
public Category: Business/Law Reads: 7534 Published: 01 / 05 / 2010