What Makes a Good Prosecutor go Bad?

Justice

Prosecuting attorneys are hired to represent the state in the effort to convict those who commit criminal acts, however, sometimes the lines of ethics and responsibility are crossed.

Recently, a high ranking prosecutor in the Brooklyn, NY district attorney’s office, betrayed her oath with charges that she forged several judges’ signatures on 20 wiretap orders. Tara Lenich allegedly committed the crime to listen in on conversations of a love interest.

It’s stated that Lenich’s record in office was clean and she was known for her “superior work.” Lenich once led the Violent Criminal Enterprises Bureau. (NYDailyNews) Although afforded the presumption of innocence, she is now the subject of detailed scrutiny during an investigation conducted by the very office in which she worked.

Tara Lenich

(*photo New York Daily News)

On the surface, Lenich’s wrongdoing appears to be an act of personal selfishness, but the entirety of her career and cases of defendants she prosecuted will presumably be examined for any further misconduct.

What happens when misconduct by prosecutors is uncovered? In this case, Tara Lenich has been arrested and charged; she will have her day in court. But, oftentimes, there is no accountability for even worse cases of unethical behavior by prosecutors who wield tremendous power in the judicial system.

A prosecutor’s distinctive role within the criminal justice system requires them to vigorously represent the state in seeking justice and upholding the rights of victims. However, when the moral and ethical line is blurred, it raises issues at the intersection of the state’s interests and the rights of the victims. This is the point where the prosecutor has to decide whether a case is winnable, and at what cost.

The cost of winning is where some prosecutor’s decision making process takes a turn and  commonly the win is more important than justice they are sworn to uphold. Too many times a person is convicted of a crime they didn’t commit because an overzealous prosecutor is more interested in furthering their career than the rights of the victim to fair and balanced justice.

Very little exists in the way of accountability for abuse of power and blatant misconduct of prosecutors. In recent years states are beginning to work for changes in the system by creating commissions to investigate and penalize prosecutors for violating the rules of the court.

New York has introduced legislation to create a commission to investigate and discipline acts of prosecutorial misconduct in an effort to enhance the public’s confidence in the integrity of criminal prosecutions and safeguarding the rights of all. (The Daily Beast)

In Tara Lenich’s case, she willingly took a pen in her hand and forged warrants in the name of assorted judges. Her reasons are her own, but her actions show that over a period of almost two years she abused the power bestowed to her with trust. And what about her victims? Where were their rights?


NJ Investigator of the Year Award, Management ResourcesManagement Resources Ltd of New York is a professional investigative firm licensed in New York and New Jersey, members of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Associated Licensed Detectives of New York, and Founding Members and Regional Directors of Investigating Innocence.

Bob Rahn and Kim Anklin are available for interviews or speaking engagements.Contact ImaginePublicity at 843-808-08509 or email contact@imaginepublicity.com

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Posted in Criminal Defense Investigations

Shady Tactics in an Unbalanced System

Lady Justice

The US Justice System is represented by the scales of justice, balancing fairly each side of a case considered in court. The depiction of Lady Justice holding the scales while blindfolded and wielding a sword is the portrayal of objectivity and judicial authority. This representation is the ideal for each person accused of a crime, that they will have their day in court, be treated fairly and ….”without fear or favor, regardless of money, wealth, fame, power, or identity.

We hold this symbolization of justice dear, however, in reality, there is an imbalance of power and justice by those sworn to objectivity uphold the law, but too many are more interested in the triumph of winning a case. Whether because of judicial misconduct or political favors, those in positions of power have mishandled the very lives of those they serve.

Management Resources commends those in law enforcement who take pride in the brave jobs they do on a daily basis. It is unfortunate that all the good work they do is often overshadowed by the few who mishandle their profession.

As investigators of wrongful convictions, we have seen examples of misconduct on many levels and will attempt to explain what has been uncovered in several of those cases.

 

Intimidation

Intimidation can occur within the initial interrogation by detectives investigating a crime. At times the premise of innocent until proven guilty goes out the window and the accused, as well as witnesses, are often pressured and harassed.

The intended outcomes of intimidating one accused of a crime can be to elicit information or a confession, and in cases where witnesses who may have pending criminal charges, there is an exchange for favorable testimony against the accused.

Forensic lab

Unlimited resources

Prosecutors and those who work for the government’s side of a criminal case have unlimited resources when it comes to investigations. They have access to evidence and processing, forensic units & experts, previous criminal records, case files and pleas. They can use all these resources to build their case.

On the other hand, the defendant only has his knowledge of innocence or guilt in the crime for which they are accused. Unless a person hires investigators, their own experts, or can afford independent evidence testing, they are at the mercy of what’s produced by the prosecution and work to defend themselves against their proof.

Many people accused of crimes can’t afford a private attorney and are left with overworked, underpaid legal aid lawyers and lawyers from assigned counsel plans. These attorneys do their best for their clients, but the caseload they have are tremendous.

Remember, the prosecutor bears the burden of proof in a criminal case, but that proof must be reliable. The defendant is most often unable to afford the same resources to prove the reliability of the evidence presented.

Misconduct and accountability

“The prosecutor has more control over life, liberty and reputation than any other person in America.” Former United States Attorney General and Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson

The adversarial position of prosecutors and defense attorneys is the basis for conflicting objectives within the framework of the law. Prosecutors are required to turn over all relevant material to the defense, whether or not it affects their case, and are charged with presenting the truth, not misusing their immense power in the judicial system.

Many cases of wrongful conviction occur because crucial evidence was withheld from the defense. Failure to produce all pertinent evidence is a violation of the Brady Rule explained in a previous article. Read complete article.

Unfortunately, prosecutors, police officers, detectives and other officials in the justice system are rarely held accountable for their bias, mistakes, or intended misconduct which ultimately affects the lives of the citizens they represent.

Plea bargaining

In order to ease the burden of the criminal justice system, plea bargains are offered to defendants who are allowed to plead guilty to a lesser charge, have the more serious charge dismissed, and agree to a reduced prison term.

The defendant enters into the process already charged with a crime, but not proven guilty or innocent and relying on evidence produced only by the prosecutor. This is the point where the imbalance of power is dangerous.

A bargaining process that denies the right to a day in court to prove and argue evidence before a judge and/or jury is presented to defendants who may actually be innocent. During a plea bargain, the prosecutor does not have to reveal evidence before the court, therefore leaving little risk for misconduct, and essentially no consequences if misconduct occurs.

 

Solutions 

NYC Supreme Court

The true administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good government….. NYC Supreme Court

The US Justice System must find a way to level the playing field for defendants accused of a crime. Although those who can’t afford to hire an attorney are given legal representation, they must have sufficient funding for defense attorneys and professional defense investigators.

Criminal defense attorneys must be convinced of the value offered by unbiased investigators whose mission is to find the truth. They must also take the stance of being the legal advocate for their client, the defendant, and not always take the easy offer of a plea bargain, but commit to revealing the truth.

To correct the flaws in the criminal justice system we must start at the very beginning of criminal charges when evidence is being gathered and witnesses are being interviewed. The rights of the accused must not be forgotten, and we should have the resources available to ensure those rights.

The victims who are seeking justice must be guaranteed the right person is convicted of the crime and not continue to be free and commit further criminal acts.

The criminal justice system must work equally for both sides; until that happens we will see more wrongful convictions, misconduct without accountability, and criminals who are walking the streets looking for the next victim.


NJ Investigator of the Year Award, Management ResourcesManagement Resources Ltd of New York is a professional investigative firm licensed in New York and New Jersey, members of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Associated Licensed Detectives of New York, and Founding Members and Regional Directors of Investigating Innocence.

Bob Rahn and Kim Anklin are available for interviews or speaking engagements.Contact ImaginePublicity at 843-808-08509 or email contact@imaginepublicity.com

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Posted in Criminal Defense Investigations

Making a Murderer: Who is the Victim?

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Teresa Halbach

One final thought on the Netflix documentary series, Making a Murderer. Who is the victim? Who is she, really?

There has been extensive media reporting about the victimization of Steven Avery, who was wrongfully convicted of rape, exonerated, and while waiting for a $3.2 million settlement was accused and convicted of the murder of Teresa Halbach.

Another point is the victimization of Brendan Dassey, at the time of the murder a 16-year-old with an IQ of 70, borderline for being classified as intellectually disabled. In a previous post, we talked about the confession of Dassey and it’s implications in the conviction of himself and Avery. (Brendan Dassey: The Power of Confession in Making a Murderer)

Both Avery and Dassey received life sentences for the murder of Teresa Halbach, but on August 12, 2016, Brendon Dassey’s conviction was overturned by U.S. Magistrate Judge William Duffin. He will either be granted a new trial or set free.

Why are victims forgotten?

The forgotten victim in media reports and Making a Murderer is Teresa Halbach, who is barely remembered beyond the gruesome details of her murder. She is the pivotal character in the story, but only recognized as a byline.

Teresa Halbach should be remembered for more than being the young lady who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and ended up brutally tortured and murdered, her body scattered about and burned on the property of Steven Avery.

Crime victims don’t make the headlines or the media story unless they are famous or a celebrity. It’s unfortunate that we remember the most heinous of criminals, but can’t  name their victims. Shame on our mainstream media that they have not honored the victims, but have entered another criminal’s name into the annals of pop culture.

So, who was Teresa Halbach?

halbach

Teresa Halbach (*photo from People Magazine)

Teresa was a daughter, sister and a productive member of the community. One journalist who covered the original story, Diana Alvear, describes Teresa:

She grew up in a small farming community in Calumet County, Wisconsin. One of five siblings in a close-knit family, she was a 25-year-old aspiring photographer. She loved karaoke. She coached her younger sister’s volleyball team. By all accounts, she was one of the nicest, most caring persons most had ever met.

 

It’s also reported that Teresa Halbach had an extraordinary outlook on life, she cared about people and was always ready to help others. She had an outgoing personality, she valued her family and dreamed of one day becoming a mother.

Teresa Halbach

Teresa Halbach (*photo from People Magazine)

Growing up in a close-knit community, and even closer family, it can only be imagined how difficult it was to learn her fate. And now, having to re-live all of the details must be excruciating, especially in light of the fact that the 4 part documentary barely scratched the surface of exactly who was the real victim of Making a Murderer.

As Avery and Dassey continue to appeal to mainstream media reporters, Teresa Halbach is barely given a mention much less a name, a face, and honor as a murder victim.

One of the disturbing things that happens when working with wrongful convictions is the fact that during the time a person is incarcerated the true criminal has been free. The victims’ families, thinking they have the right person behind bars, now have to go back and start their search for justice all over again.

The biggest flaw in our criminal justice system is the re-victimization of the victims.


celebratingManagement Resources Ltd of New York is a professional investigative firm licensed in New York and New Jersey, members of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Associated Licensed Detectives of New York, and Founding Members and Regional Directors of Investigating Innocence.

Bob Rahn and Kim Anklin are available for interviews or speaking engagements.  Contact ImaginePublicity at 843-808-08509 or email contact@imaginepublicity.com

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Posted in Criminal Cases, Criminal Defense Investigations

The Prosecution Has a Team of Investigators, Why Shouldn’t You?

 

Arrested for a crime you didn't commit

If you’ve been arrested for a crime, especially if you are certain of your innocence, you must not rely on the justice system to always do the right thing. As the defendant in a criminal case, you’ll want to assemble the best team possible, and that should include having an investigator as part of your legal team.

Why is it so important? The prosecuting attorney has access to investigators, detectives, and police, along with the evidence they have acquired in an effort to build a case against you; their goal is to win. In a perfect world, justice would be the ultimate outcome, but, in today’s system, justice is commonly flawed, or political in nature.

Underneath the oftentimes corrupt criminal justice system lies the truth.

Investigators who work along with criminal defense attorneys are truth seekers, not looking for the next win, but searching out the veracity of the evidence so that true justice is served.

We’ve written extensively on how vital it is for defense attorneys to hire private investigators and how by doing so best serves the client. An investigator’s finding becomes a part of the “attorney work product” allowing the same protection of attorney/client privilege of confidentiality.

In a climate where wrongful convictions are being discovered every day, it’s imperative for a defendant to become educated on the possibility of being convicted of a crime they didn’t commit. A good investigative team can assist the defense attorney by combing through and analyzing the evidence, interviewing witnesses, and offering advice from their conclusions.

Recently, we wrote a two-part series on Steps to Take if Falsely Accused, addressing what to do at the time of arrest, and how to prepare for trial, a wrongful conviction, and the appeal process.

Having a private investigator on the legal defense team ensures that all witnesses and evidence are scrutinized thoroughly and, if there is any sign of misconduct, it can be presented before a defendant’s case is settled.

The hard truth; going to prison for a crime you didn’t commit isn’t always the anomaly.  Everyone should be aware of the consequences of an inadequate defense, one without the entirety of evidence required to paint the picture of the truth. This is a critical role of the investigators, to advocate for the client and ensure evidence and rights are preserved.

NJ Investigator of the Year Award, Management ResourcesManagement Resources Ltd of New York is a professional investigative firm licensed in New York and New Jersey, members of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Associated Licensed Detectives of New York, and Founding Members and Regional Directors of Investigating Innocence.

Bob Rahn and Kim Anklin are available for interviews or speaking engagements.Contact ImaginePublicity at 843-808-08509 or email contact@imaginepublicity.com

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The Ripple Effect of Wrongful Convictions

Ripple Effect of Wrongful Conviction

 

Wrongful convictions continue to get attention and the issue is finally making headway as more cases come to light. Additionally, there has been an increase of those willing to step up and advocate for the innocently incarcerated to create ways to clean up the criminal justice system.

Furthermore, we are learning about exonerees and their experiences, but we also must examine the effect that just one wrongful conviction has on a family and community.

Every family member of a person wrongfully convicted is put in distress. Had it not been for the dogged pursuit of his mother, Jonathan Fleming’s case may not have reached us at Management Resources, and we would not have had the opportunity to uncover evidence leading to his exoneration.

Children left behind without a parent face a life without their presence and guidance. They miss the opportunity to receive love and direction from a parent who is incarcerated.

Extended family, friends, and entire communities are forever changed by the experience of a wrongful conviction through lost contact and opportunity. Especially concerning are the lost contributions the person may have made to society were they not wrongfully convicted.

Maintaining a relationship with a spouse or significant other who is incarcerated is stressful at best. Oftentimes relationships cannot withstand the separation, no matter how strong the relationship was before the conviction, the strain is just too much.

“As we’ve seen in several wrongful conviction cases, an innocent person may spend 20+ years behind bars before a review of evidence results in the re-opening of the case, an investigation is conducted and the person is exonerated. One day behind bars for a crime they didn’t commit is too many.”

There is no way to fully compensate a person for time out of their life, lost possibilities and lost relationships. When they are finally free, there is little in the way of resources available to help the transition back into a society which has dramatically changed. A person being let out of prison on parole has more resources available to assist them than someone who is exonerated.

Monetary settlements frequently take time to receive; in the meantime, the exoneree is left with insignificant funds and skills to return to the workforce. And, they may return to the outside world homeless were it not for the generosity of family and friends.

Reunification with family can also be awkward when one has been out of the circle for so long, leading to further difficulty maintaining those relationships.

On the other side of the coin is the victim of the crime. Thinking the right person was convicted, they now realize that the person who actually committed the crime has not been brought to justice. They have not received a resolution to the case, and, once again, must pursue justice through the system, re-living the crime and all the negative ramifications.

“The ripple effect of wrongful conviction spreads far and wide into the lives of innocent bystanders, victims, and the legal system.”

Since the experience with the Jonathan Fleming case, we are committed to working towards change within the criminal justice system that continues to allow blatant mistakes to be made. Management Resources realizes that advocating for the wrongfully convicted, as well as the true victims, is the first step in making change happen.

As more cases come to the forefront we, along with the legal teams we work with, are learning more and more about the long-term effects of wrongful convictions. Not only are there physical changes from being incarcerated, psychological changes occur as well and must be addressed for the exoneree to make a successful transition and resume their lives.

To think that only one person, the wrongfully convicted, is affected is far from the truth, and as long as we allow it to happen we all are subjected to the consequences.

 

NJ Investigator of the Year Award, Management ResourcesManagement Resources Ltd of New York is a professional investigative firm licensed in New York and New Jersey, members of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Associated Licensed Detectives of New York, and Founding Members and Regional Directors of Investigating Innocence.

Bob Rahn and Kim Anklin are available for interviews or speaking engagements.Contact ImaginePublicity at 843-808-08509 or email contact@imaginepublicity.com

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Posted in Criminal Defense Investigations, Wrongful Convictions

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