18 January 2008

Why He Doing What he's Doing

Looks like I either went blind, stupid, or my web browser popped up an earlier version of Defending People, 'cuz Mark did have a post up about the prosecutor and the Justice. mea culpa

"Maybe someone else can shed some light on how [Head Prosecutor] might benefit from dismissing Medina's case."

Well, I don't think the prosecutor can benefit from the dismissal. It's probably damage control. Let's think about how this probably went to the Grand Jury.

P1: "HP, this case is terrible. No real evidence, but if we don't prosecute nobody will believe us. They'll say it's politics over justice."

HP: "Take it to the grand jury. Show them the evidence and be honest with them about how bad a case it is. Let them not true bill the charge and it won't be about politics anymore. We'll be able to point to a decision by the grand jury to ward off any claims of wrongdoing."

So off goes Prosecutor One to the grand jury. He lays it all out for them and tells them that it's a bad case which the evidence just won't support. However, the grand jury decides to true bill the case anyway.

P1: "OMG! HP, the grand jury true billed even after I told them the evidence was garbage. What do we do now? A judge would laugh at the evidence we have and a decent defense attorney would destroy us at trial."

HP: "Well, we aren't going to sit on this thing and get destroyed like the guy in North Carolina. We're going to have to move for dismissal. If we do it quickly no one can accuse us of being unethical."

The next day the charge is dropped and the mini-furor begins.

I don't think the conversations were quite as succinct as supra, but I'd bet they had the general themes I laid out.

The politically adept way to handle this would have been to wait 3 days to a week while actually reviewing the file and/or talking to key witnesses again. Then, assuming the prosecutors still believed the case unwinnable, dismissing it with a statement something like this:
"We at the Pitcairn Prosecutor's Office are great believers in the grand jury system. We believed this case teetered on that line between a valid prosecution and a case requiring dismissal. Therefore, we submitted it to the grand jury to see if there was probable cause. The grand jury found that there was probable cause.

After probable cause was found, our office engaged, as it always does, in it's required duty of checking to see if the case could rise above probable cause to the actual standard of conviction: beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a much higher standard than that to which the grand jury is held.

Unfortunately, after this review our office has concluded that the evidence, while sufficient for an indictment, and therefore sufficient for a prosecution, is insufficient for a conviction. Based on this finding our office is asking the court to dismiss this charge. Should more evidence be discovered in the future we shall reopen the case.

A dismissal is not something this office takes lightly. This dismissal is being done because of legal ethics requirements. It is being done to save the taxpayers the expense of a trial which cannot be won. It is also being done so that if solid evidence is developed in the future the guilty party can be brought to justice.
I'm not sure why it wasn't handled this way. I'd guess because of all the other problems Mark's been talking about on his blawg the office is gun-shy and wanted to dump this as quickly as possible to avoid any possible entanglements. It's also possible that the head prosecutor is already a lame duck and doesn't really care about the niceties the way he did when the case went to the grand jury. He's just going to straight-up dump it because he knows there's no conviction possible and who cares about the fallout?

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