Is the future of District Attorneys Larry Krasner shaped? Krasner has been making fast-work of living up to promises told before his November. 2017 election win.
Krasner’s 5 page memo—here—to his staff, detailing new policies, offers reform on a perhaps revolutionary scale. Time will tell, but the early signs are good. Maura Ewing of Slate and Shaun King from The Intercept, both covered Krasner’s progress so far. Highlights include: The firing of 31 prosecutors from the DA’s office for refusal to get with the new program, and Krasner, “instruct[ing] prosecutors to avoid convictions if possible and guide cases for diversion programs instead of jail and prison.” Both articles are linked directly below.
Krasner’s new policies “are an effort to end mass incarceration, and bring back balance to sentencing.” With Krasner’s new guidelines for arrests, the burden on both public defenders and the courts regarding caseloads, should lessen. Due to this lessening, plea deals would hopefully become less prevalent. The knock-on effect could take time to materialise, but Krasner’s proactive approach to reform is already moving in the right direction.
From a similar field—opposite ends of the spectrum—comes news out of Atlanta, detailing jury selection—with Columbus District Attorney Julia Slater, likely failing to be as progressive as Krasner.
Bill Rankin from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on Monday. 19, the story of seemingly apparent race discrimination from prosecutors when selecting members of the jury. Handwritten jury notes only became available after a Senior Superior Court Judge ordered them to be released in early March of this year.
The notes, pertaining to Johnny Lee Gates murder trial in 1977 show a marking system graded 1–5 in relation to desirability. Prosecutors struck all 4 black potential jurors, grading them 1, while adding notes for each including, “fat,” “slow,” “con-artist,” and “ignorant.” While white jurors were marked with a “W,” black jurors were marked with a “B,” or “N.”
The real story here appears to be what has happened—and not happened—during Gates’s appeal. Evidence of jury discrimination, whether proven to be true or not, does not alter the attempts by the DA to have the jury notes excluded from being of an exculpatory value to Gates. Slater’s DA’s Office in Muscogee County. GA, countered Gates’s claim of an unfair trial due to jury discrimination in a recent filing in connection to his appeal. “Gates’ claims should be rejected because he is relying on just seven capital cases. To prevail, Gates must show systematic exclusion of blacks ‘in case after case, whatever the circumstances, whatever the crime and whoever the defendant or victim may be,’.”
While DA Slater came to office 30 years after Gates’ case was originally heard, holding accountable those who worked for the same department in years past through being transparent with evidence clearly of exculpatory value to Gates should be a given. As is so often found, it is clearly not though.
From prosecutors behaving badly, to a judge not willing to step aside.
Seminole County Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler, presided over the double murder trial of Clemente Javier Aguirre back in 2006. Aguirre, sentenced to death for the murders, sought appeal—based upon DNA evidence and no less that 5 different confessions heard from 4 different sources. Recksiedler—in the belief that this new evidence would not alter the juries original decision—refused to overturn the conviction or offer a retrial.
Once Aguirre’s case finally reached the Florida Supreme Court, its justices unanimously reversed Recsiedler’s ruling and vacated Aguirre’s conviction. However, prosecutors have decided to retry Aguirre and while this is possibly debatable, what is not debatable is that Recsiedler shouldn’t be at the helm again.
Contract Reporter, Scott Maxwell penned the story for the Orlando Sentinel below.
Reasons for judges presiding over the same cases when they are returned to the trial courts via appeal can offer some weight. It makes sense that a judge who already had knowledge of a given case preside again. This can be partly blamed on the sheer number of cases processed each year. However, this only works with impartial judges.
Recsiedlers affirmation that she felt jurors minds would not be changed was not agreed upon by one single Florida Supreme Court Judge. It would clearly be better for her to step aside.
The deadline for amicus briefs—to be filed in the case of Brendan Dassey—expires this Monday, 26. March. However, the Juvenile Law Center began the inevitable landslide of petitions on Thursday. 22. The remaining briefs will be filed this coming Monday.
Dassey is appealing to The Supreme Court, in what could possibly be his last recourse of relief, as to the voluntariness of his confession to the rape, and murder of Teresa Halbach in 2005.
For further filings, the link below will direct to Brendan Dassey’s Docket—where future amicus briefs will appear.
Dassey’s case, not only addresses juvenile confessions, but also cases involving diminished cognitive abilities. SCOTUS have not heard a case of similar bearing since Fare vs Michael C. Nearly 40 years have passed since that ruling and—added to the fact that 8 federal judges have evenly shared polar-opposite opinions as to the validity of Dassey’s confession—surely it’s time for SCOTUS to hear a case of such nature, to determine why this is the case.
The death sentence of Vicente Benavides—for the murder of 21-month-old Consuelo Verdugo—has been overturned by the California Supreme Court.
Scientific evidence used to convict Benavides was found to be demonstrably false with all but one of the state’s experts recanting their testimony. The reason for this happening? A non-complete disclosure of the medical records to their experts by the prosecution. Basically, garbage in, garbage out. Even so, the prosecution still wanted to charge Benavides with a lesser 2nd-degree murder charge. Fortunately the justices said no.
The ever excellent Open File reported on the case in further detail, with the CA Supreme Court Opinion included below.
Ed Jagels—the much maligned, yet 6-times re-elected DA for Kern County—part in Benavides conviction, came at the time of his 2nd term of office.
Jagels had evidently ” [t]rippled the number of prosecutorial misconduct complaints of his predecessor. He was regularly berated by appellate courts for withholding exculpatory evidence and for his courtroom behavior,”
Simply put, he shouldn’t have been ‘berated’ he should have been disbarred.