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Federal Prosecutors Lying to the Judge, Hid Pro-Defense Evidence


Brady Violations, Government Misconduct, Injustice, Prosecutorial Misconduct,

In a highly unusual and virtually unprecedented decision, US v. Garner et al, No. 11-cr-00038 (N.D. Miss. July 15, 2014), Judge Neal Biggers of the Northern District of Mississippi ruled sua sponte - that is, on his own without a request from the defense -that government prosecutors, Assistant United States Attorneys Clayton A. Dabbs and Robert J. Mims, had engaged in constitutional and statutory violations at trial, and granted defendants a new trial because of those violations. The government had intentionally hidden important information about their star witness from the defense for more than a year.

The judge ruled that the government had failed to adhere to the requirements of the 1963 Supreme Court decision in Brady (requiring disclosure to defendants' attorneys all evidence that is favorable to the defense and any evidence of a reason that a government witness may be lying) and a new trial was required. In an all-too familiar scenario, the government had "flipped" the main fraudster and used him to ensnare a series of others:

The government's main witness - Michael David Chandler, the man who originated the conspiracy for which these defendants were prosecuted - was, at the time of the trial, under a twenty-six count criminal indictment and had been for approximately one-year, the substance of which indictment was kept secret from the defendants herein until Chandler had taken the stand during the trial as the main government witness and finished his direct testimony. It was only then that the government made a motion to a trial judge in another courthouse of this court to unseal the indictment, which the government had asked to be sealed over a year earlier.

Citing Brady, Bagley, and Kyles, the primary Supreme Court cases that require the government to disclose important information like this, Judge Biggers determined that "[t]o casually throw out to the defendants an indictment under seal for over a year against the government's star witness only after that witness had finished his direct testimony" does not comply with due process. The transcript of arguments showed that the government had engaged in "grotesque gamesmanship" to deprive defendants of this vital impeachment tool.

To make matters worse, the record also showed that government prosecutors lied to the court about whether the star witness had seen his indictment. In all cases, the government violated both an order of the court and the requirements of Brady and the other Supreme Court rulings by failing to turn over this material in sufficient time to permit defendants to plan their defense strategies with full knowledge of all material information.

Additional constitutional violations which the court failed to address in its earlier ruling included false statements of the same star witness that he had received multiple benefits in exchange for his testimony and the suppression of interview statements of that same witness that were never produced. In sum:

Because of the flagrant violations of constitutional requirements of Brady and Kyles, and the cumulative effect of other materials to which the defendants were entitled for use in preparing their defense strategies and in impeachment of the government's main witness, the Court finds that the defendants are entitled to a new trial on the conspiracy charges on which Chandler was the primary witness, and to do otherwise would be a denial of due process law to the defendants.

(This post acquired most of the detail details from a post written by Torrence Lewis, a federal appellate practitioner with a focus on white collar and complex commercial litigation.)

You can see more from Mr. Lewis at:

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