On Prosecutorial Misconduct

According to the Center for Prosecutor Integrity, nearly half of all wrongful convictions arise from the prosecutorial misconduct or the misconduct of other officials. Steve Weinburg has broken down types of prosecutorial misconduct:

  • Courtroom misconduct (making inappropriate or inflammatory comments in the presence of the jury; introducing or attempting to introduce inadmissible, inappropriate or inflammatory evidence; mischaracterizing the evidence or the facts of the case to the court or jury; committing violations pertaining to the selection of the jury; or making improper closing arguments);
  • Mishandling of physical evidence (hiding, destroying or tampering with evidence, case files or court records);
  • Failing to disclose exculpatory evidence;
  • Threatening, badgering or tampering with witnesses;
  • Using false or misleading evidence;
  • Harassing, displaying bias toward, or having a vendetta against the defendant or defendant’s counsel (including selective or vindictive prosecution, which includes instances of denial of a speedy trial); and
  • Improper behavior during grand jury proceedings.

Retribution and Deterrence of the Death Penalty

“Based on my specialized knowledge of this process, I now conclude that the death penalty as a form of punishment should be abolished because the execution of individuals does not appear to measurably advance the retribution and deterrence purposes served by the death penalty; the life without parole option adequately protects society at large in the same way as the death penalty punishment option; and the risk of executing an innocent person for a capital murder is unreasonably high, particularly in light of procedural-default laws and the prevalence of ineffective trial and initial habeas counsel.”

– Judge Tom Price, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals; Ex parte Panetti (No. WR-37,145-04), in his 11/26/14 dissent of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals’ denial of Mr. Scott Panetti’s writ seeking to halt his scheduled execution. The 5th Circuit halted the execution on 12/3/14, acknowledging the “complex legal questions at issue,” presumably that of imposing the death penalty on someone with severe mental illness.

60 Minutes on Tax Fraud

Recently, 60 Minutes ran a story about prevalent IRS identity scam.

Here is a how the story began:

There have been lots of stories over the past few months on identity theft and how the information can be used against you. You may have heard something about stolen identity tax fraud. You may even have been a victim of it. It’s the biggest tax scam around now.

This is how it works. Someone steals your identity, files a bogus tax return in your name before you do and collects a refund check from the IRS. It’s so simple, you would think it would never work, but it does. It’s been around since 2008, and you’d think the IRS would have come up with a way to stop it, it hasn’t. Instead the scam has gone viral, tripling in the past three years.

The IRS estimates that it sent out nearly three million fraudulent refunds to con artists last year. And according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office out tomorrow, it cost tax payers $5.2 billion. The Treasury Department believes the numbers are much higher than that. Proving once again, what every con man already knows: there is no underestimating the general dysfunction and incompetence of government bureaucracy.

Boston Bombing, FBI Orlando Shooting

Boston Bombing, Orlando Shootout

This American Life investigated the mysterious death of Ibragim Todashev, someone “loosely linked to the Boston Marathon bombing.”  Todashev was shot seven times by the FBI in his Florida apartment.  Allegedly, confessed to a triple, execution-style homicide and then went ballistic, requiring the FBI shoot and kill him.  Even more odd than this, the FBI has remained silent about what occurred.

Here is a description of the fascinating podcast from the This American Life podcast:

Last May, a weird story made the news: the FBI killed a guy in Florida who was loosely linked to the Boston Marathon bombings. He was shot seven times in his living room by a federal agent. What really happened? Why was the FBI even in that room with him? A reporter spent six months looking into it, and she found that the FBI was doing a bunch of things that never made the news. HerBoston Magazine story.