Prosecutor misconduct cases

March 6, 2009
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For those current and aspiring prosecuting attorneys out there, read two of today’s Court of Appeals opinions to learn what not to do while at trial. The appellate court dealt with two cases of prosecutorial misconduct but found both were harmless enough not to warrant a reversal of convictions.

The cases are Artillius Washington v. State, out of Tippecanoe County, and Travis Johnson v. State , from St. Joseph County.

In Washington’s case, the Court of Appeals found the deputy prosecuting attorney’s remarks about defense counsel during closing to be clearly unprofessional and unacceptable, including the statement, “I could get just as improper and I get jury verdicts returned all the time on this very evidence. All the time. Guilty.”

The appellate court went on to chastise the attorney, saying upon reflection, the attorney should recognize that behavior has no place in the practice of law. But because Washington didn’t show how those comments had any likely effect on the jury that prejudiced him, he wasn’t denied a fair trial.

In Johnson’s case, the prosecutor committed misconduct by repeatedly referring to Johnson’s right to an attorney. The trial court even interrupted her closing arguments after she said “You need a lawyer when you know you’ve done something wrong.” As a result, the trial court admonished the jury saying the prosecutor’s comments can’t be considered in determining Johnson’s guilt. Because of the evidence of Johnson’s guilt and the admonishment, it was enough to make the error harmless, according to the Court of Appeals.

Any thoughts on these cases or any prosecutorial misconduct or missteps you’ve witnessed?
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  1. Future generations will be amazed that we prosecuted people for possessing a harmless plant. The New York Times came out in favor of legalization in Saturday's edition of the newspaper.

  2. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  3. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  4. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  5. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

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