12 May 2005

Setting the Record Straight

The Virginia Supreme Court's description of a habeas hearing and the prosecutor's introduction of the defendant's record in the sentencing phase of a death penalty case (to prove future dangerousness):
"During the hearing, the Commonwealth's Attorney admitted he knew, at the time the conviction records were proffered during the trial, that three of the purported convictions actually were only one. He testified, however, that he advised defense counsel of the discrepancy during the trial, and that he assumed the error would be explained to the jury by defense counsel during closing argument.
. . .
[W]e recognize there was the factual dispute concerning whether the prosecutor notified defense counsel, during the trial, about the inaccurate records. Nevertheless, the flawed documents were proffered by the Commonwealth's Attorney, who had the duty to assure, as far as reasonably possible, that the records were accurate. If their correctness was in doubt, or if the prosecutor knew they were inaccurate in any particular, the documents should not have been offered in evidence." Evans v. Commonwealth, 323 S.E.2d 114, 228 Va. 468 (1984)
This got the defendant a new sentencing hearing after the Commonwealth waited until the law changed so that the defendant would be exposed to the death penalty (previously error of this magnitude meant commutation to life).

ambivalent imbroglio describes the federal supreme court's non-handling of this case.

I couldn't find anything that showed the prosecutor involved in this case is now a judge in the same county. You're going to have to go to ai's blog and ask him for further elucidation.

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