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Stevens Case Dismissed, Prosecutors Rebuked Again


The Associated Press reports on the tongue-lashing administered by Judge Sullivan to the Justice Department prosecutors in his court this morning as he dismissed the case against former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens:

“In nearly 25 years on the bench, I’ve never seen anything approaching the mishandling and misconduct that I’ve seen in this case,” U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said in the opening moments of a hearing. Sullivan read a stinging summary of the many times the government withheld evidence or mishandled witnesses in the case…

During Tuesday’s hearing, Sullivan read a primer on criminal procedure, the kind of rudimentary lecture students normally receive during their first year of law school. The judge said he has seen a troubling trend of prosecutors withholding evidence in cases against people ranging from Guantanamo Bay detainees to public officials such as Stevens. He called on judges nationwide to issue formal orders in all criminal cases requiring that prosecutors turn over evidence to defendants. It was a stinging rebuke of the Justice Department and Sullivan called on Holder to order training for all prosecutors.

But the misconduct of Bush-era prosecutors in the Stevens case is child’s play compared to what was done in the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don E. Siegelman, Mississippi lawyer Paul Minor, judges Walter Teel and John Whitfield, and a half dozen other cases profiled here. So the question rests with Holder: when is he going to do something to rectify the mess he inherited? Judge Sullivan is right about the solution: it starts with education. Remind the government lawyers that they cannot wield their power corruptly or unethically without consequences. And make clear that unethical conduct will be dealt with swiftly and harshly, not swept under the carpet as it has been for the last eight years.

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