Prosecutorial misconduct is defined as the use of deceptive, illegal or reprehensible methods used by a prosecutor, to attempt to persuade either the court or the jury. Wrongful convictions in this country are nothing new to the criminal justice system. They are as old as the system itself, and they will continue to exist as long as the fallibility of human judgment continues.
Courtroom Participants ‘ Professional Standards
In Virginia State, Jay Lentz was convicted by a jury in July 2003 for the kidnapping and murder of his wife. The jury recommended that Mr. Lentz spend life in prison; however, the United States District Judge Gerald Lee dismissed the kidnapping charge due to lack of evidence. Two weeks after the judge convicted Mr. Lentz of murder, he found evidence of prosecutorial misconduct therefore the judge ordered a new trial for the alleged murder charge.
There was a calendar that was attained by officers on the deceased possession. This evidence was ruled inadmissible by the court, and yet it was still in the jury room for their viewing. The jurors had told the judge, that this calendar was very influential in deciding a guilty verdict. Judge Gerald Lee held a hearing and found the chief prosecutor Steven Mellin of the case has put the calendar in the evidence box that goes to the jury room for them to view. The judge also made clear that his belief was the prosecutor Mellin’s misconduct had been reckless, on purpose and not just a harmless mistake.
The prosecutor’s seemed to think they were above the law, however, Judge Gerald Lee knew otherwise. The prosecutor’s offered no apologies and swore there wasn’t any prosecutorial misconduct and that the judge had no right to investigate them to begin with. It is assumed the reasoning for prosecutor Mellin’s misconduct is because his personal involvement with the victim, which neither the defense attorney nor the judge had any knowledge of the relationship. Mr. Mellin, tried to convince the court that he did not do anything wrong, and that Judge Gerald Lee just did not believe him, therefore, he was trying to make Mr. Mellin look unprofessional.
The Virginia State Bar had supposedly submitted prosecutor Steven Mellin to Texas where Mr. Mellin received his license for the proper course of action. However, in Texas they are more relaxed when it comes to their standard of practice and are pro-prosecution. A federal judge in Virginia State has put prosecutor Mellin in contempt of court and has given him fines for committing prosecutorial misconduct.
Ineffective assistance by criminal defense counsel
Ineffective assistance of counsel is when an attorney’s services to a defendant in a criminal case fall so far short of what a reasonably competent attorney would do that it violates the Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial. In evaluating an unsuccessful assistance of counsel claim, the overruling concern is to establish whether or not the defense counsel’s conduct so undermined the operation of the adversary process that the trial cannot be relied upon as having produced a just result.” (Strickland v. Washington, 466 U. S. 668, 686 (1984).
Thomas Michael Reece was convicted in December 1992, in the District Court in the Northern District of Georgia for dealing a controlled substance, methamphetamines. In February 1993, Thomas Michael Reece was convicted and sentenced to a total of 280 months or a little over 23 years imprisonment and a fine in the amount of $5, 000. Thomas Michael Reece appealed his convictions, but he did not appeal his sentences. Mr. Reece claimed that his defense attorney executed ineffective assistance of counsel, in violation of the Sixth Amendment, by not objecting to the court’s use of the D-methamphetamine guideline to enhance Mr. Reece’s sentences. Mr. Reece claimed that the court should have used L-methamphetamine as the guideline. (Reece vs. United States, 1997)
The prejudice prong of Strickland is where the defendant needs to prove that “ there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different.” (Siegel, L. 2011) Performance prong is one to “ avoid any conflicts of interest, to advocate for the defendant, to bring to bear such skill and knowledge as will render the trial a reliable adversarial testing process to make reasonable investigations or make a reasonable decision that makes particular investigations unnecessary.” (Siegel, L. 2011)
The performance prong does not apply in this case, because the petitioner failed to satisfy the prejudice prong. In this particular case they refer to the concluding factor as the “ prejudice” prong and the previous factor as the “ performance” prong. Thomas Michael Reece needed to illustrate that his defense attorney “ fell below an objective standard of reasonableness”, (Strickland, 466 U. S. at 688, 104 S. Ct. at 2064) and to show “ there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different.” (Strickland, 466 U. S. at 694, 104 S. Ct. at 2068)
A California Superior Court judge has been reprimanded for violating judicial misconduct when he tried helping his wife to get out of paying late fees that had occurred because of an unpaid traffic citation. The Commission on Judicial Performance delivered a public announcement of Judge Salvador Sarmiento for “ improper conduct in seeking preferential treatment” on behalf of his wife. The commission on judicial performance said that Judge Salvador Sarmiento found a way around the standard methods by requesting that an assistant court commissioner to schedule a trial date for his wife, when she ignored letters from the courts. In November 2010 Mrs. Sarmiento received a ticket when she failed to give a pedestrian the right of way at a crosswalk. (Rojas, R. 2012)
Misconduct or ineffectiveness from judges, prosecuting attorney’s and defense attorneys reflect the crime control model of the criminal justice system by losing the public’s confidence in the honor and impartiality of the judicial system. When a defendant who is involved in a case where there is misconduct from any of the courtroom participants makes it difficult to have faith or trust regarding their innocence or guilty verdict. When the prosecutor hides evidence or supplies evidence that was withdrawn from the case that will exonerate the defendant in order to convict or add more time to the defendant’s sentence is wrong and against the law. A judge, a prosecutor, or defense attorney is not above the law and when an issue of misconduct is present such as bribery, “ losing” evidence, etc. should be punished as such depending on the misconduct.
Cassel, E. (February 2004). Prosecutor Misconduct in Two Recent High-Profiles
Cases: Why It Happens, and How We Can Better Prevent It.
http://writ. news. findlaw. com/cassel/20040212. html
Reece vs. United States (August 1997). Tommy Michael REECE, Petitioner-
Appellant, v. United States of America, Respondent-Appellee No. 958988.
http://caselaw. findlaw. com/us-11th-circuit/1246504. html
Rojas, R. (July 2012). Oversight committee rebukes O. C. Judge for Ethics
http://articles. latimes. com/keyword/judicial-misconduct
Schmalleger, F., Siegel, L., Worrall, J. (2011). Courts and Criminal Justice in America. Published by Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.