Florida primary voters have ousted state’s attorney Angela Corey, whose unprofessional conduct as prosecutor in the Martin/Zimmerman case and elsewhere has been a regular target of ours at Overlawyered. “The election caps a dizzying rise for [unknown challenger Melissa] Nelson and an equally shocking fall for Corey, one of the most polarizing political figures in Jacksonville history who generated national attention and enormous criticism for her prosecutions of George Zimmerman, Marissa Alexander, 12-year-old Cristian Fernandez and many others. Corey will depart office in the first week of January as the first incumbent state attorney in modern history to lose a contested election.” [Jacksonville Times-Union, Scott Shackford]
In 2011 we wrote about the remarkable case in which Opelousas, La. plant manager Hubert Vidrine “won a rare $1.7 million verdict against the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for malicious prosecution, with a judge lambasting EPA’s enforcement apparatus for ‘reckless and callous disregard’ of Vidrine’s rights.” According to a local paper’s report, a federal officer “was accused of targeting Vidrine because of his outspokenness and choosing an investigation in Louisiana to be close to a woman with whom he was having a sexual affair.” Defenders of the agency were at pains to portray it as an “unusual situation.”
Now there’s an update to report [FindLaw, h/t Institute for Justice “Short Circuits”]. The factory’s owner, Trinity Marine Products, had also been prosecuted in the case, but was not involved in Vidrine’s personal quest for justice afterward:
According to court documents, Trinity wasn’t even aware of the federal agents’ affair and its concealment until 2011 when one of Trinity’s employees read a blog post mentioning the affair and a DOJ press release giving details. Trinity promptly filed a FTCA claim in 2012.
The question was whether the company’s claim was untimely under the statute of limitations because the prosecution had been nine years earlier. A Fifth Circuit panel has now ruled that the suit can go forward under equitable principles because the government had not established that Trinity could by reasonable diligence have learned the reason for its injury earlier. FindLaw again:
The fact of the matter is this: the blog piece was only written because there was an unsealing of court documents that had detailed the motive behind the FBI agents’ lies. And since these lies were the cause of Trinity’s eventual injury (criminal indictment), no reasonable due diligence would have uncovered them.
- Unfounded prosecution of Texas Gov. Rick Perry dropped [Austin American-Statesman, Eugene Volokh, earlier]
- Mens rea: “The American Civil Liberties Union has discovered yet another civil liberty it isn’t interested in defending” [Robby Soave/Reason, Scott Greenfield]
- Speaking of lack of mens rea: accidentally damaging a lamp in a federal government building in D.C. could send you to jail for 6 months [40 USC §8103(b)(4) (more) via @CrimeADay]
- North Carolina cyberbullying statute criminalizes posting “personal… information pertaining to a minor” with “intent to intimidate or torment.” Constitutional? [Eugene Volokh]
- Even as doubts mount about the science behind shaken-baby prosecutions, convictions continue [Kelsi Loos, Frederick News-Post; Maryland dad gets 20-year sentence; earlier here, etc.]
- Like Clinton, Bernie Sanders in 1990s backed three-strikes, longer sentences, funds for prison expansion [Mitchell Blatt, The Federalist]
- “Most of the crime lab scandals… have occurred at crime labs that were already accredited.” [Radley Balko]
How can you resist a debate between two of the nation’s most distinguished federal appeals judges — Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit and J. Harvie Wilkinson III of the Fourth — moderated by Tim Lynch? [more; coverage, Jacob Gershman, WSJ]
P.S. More on Judge Kozinski’s recent ideas on criminal justice reform (sample: let defendants choose jury or bench trial, study exonerations in depth, go after bad prosecutors) from Eugene Volokh and Radley Balko.
“Middlesex County prosecutors had information that could have helped Aisling Brady McCarthy, the nanny accused of killing the 1-year-old she was caring for. But instead of sharing it, as they should have, they kept it to themselves for more than a year while she remained in jail.” [Yvonne Abraham, Boston Globe; Radley Balko]
And some political liberals, though it is not clear why they should deserve that honorable name, are sad that Wisconsin officials can no longer use the law so freely to raid opponents’ homes at dawn or gag them from talking to the press [background, more; Watchdog, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, New York Times] More: WSJ editorial, paywall, via Tim Lynch, Cato:
The Milwaukee District Attorney’s office, run by Democrat John Chisholm, sent GAB staff a spreadsheet of search terms [for rifling seized electronic archives] that included prominent national conservatives….The government snoops created ideological search concepts like “big union bosses” and “big government,” as if such phrases suggest some law-breaking intent. Recall that when the IRS targeted conservative groups for special vetting, it created a “Be On the Lookout” list of key words such as “patriot” and “tea party.”
Caleb Brown interviews Eric O’Keefe on the abusive Wisconsin John Doe prosecution of alleged unlawful campaign coordination, much covered in this space. O’Keefe says the growing scope of campaign regulation allows wider scope for the law to be used to harass and persecute outsiders and minority viewpoints, and also speculates as to why the prosecution has not been subject to more intense scrutiny in the press: “The prosecutors have cultivated relationships over a long period of time with the newspapers. Prosecutors get a lot of good stories first, like who they’re going to indict, who got arrested…so the newspapers tend to pander to prosecutors and together they have extremely powerful weapons.” Emails from the Wisconsin John Doe targets’ private accounts, for example, scooped up by prosecutors’ secret subpoenas, later surfaced in stories in the newspapers putting the targets in a bad light.
Did federal prosecutors manipulate Los Angeles Times reporting to help win a case? Even if editors don’t care, readers might [Ken White, Popehat]. Read the whole thing, but here’s one choice quote:
The problem illuminated here isn’t just one of possible government misconduct. It’s the too-cozy too-credulous relationship between law enforcement and the press, and the very questionable decisions the press makes about what is a story. I’ve been writing about this for some time. The press thinks that a picture of a guy being perp-walked is a story, but the willingness of the cops to stage that picture to humiliate the defendant is not a story. The press thinks that juicy evidence against a defendant is a story but law enforcement’s motive in leaking that evidence isn’t. When the people sworn to uphold the law, who are prosecuting someone for violating the law, break the law to damage a defendant, the press thinks that the leaked information is the story, not the lawbreaking by law enforcers. The press does not, as far as I can tell, assess when it is being used as a tool by law enforcement. How could it, if it wants to preserve its source of tasty leaks?
Was the L.A. Times’s reporting manipulated in hopes of helping federal prosecutors win a case? If so, the effort sure backfired [Ken at Popehat, with commentary on the “too-cozy too-credulous relationship between law enforcement and the press”] And from the Fifth Circuit, also on prosecutorial misconduct: “The online anonymous postings, whether the product of lone wolf commenters or an informal propaganda campaign, gave the prosecution a tool for public castigation of the defendants that it could not have used against them otherwise, and in so doing deprived them of a fair trial.” [ABA Journal]
Remarkable story of official malfeasance in Albemarle County (Charlottesville), Virginia: though now released from prison, “Mark Weiner has lost more than two years with his young son and with his wife, he’s lost his job, he’s lost his family home, and he’s lost every penny he ever had in savings or retirement accounts.” [Dahlia Lithwick, Slate]