Today, the US Supreme Court is considering a question of
whether the constitution is violated if the chief judge on the highest court of the state refuses to disqualify himself in a death penalty appeal where he was the chief prosecutor who authorized the defendant’s death sentence, obtained the death sentence though his office’s misconduct, and campaigned for the judgeship by showing how many people he put on death row, including the defendant.
Interestingly, amici included many judges, including the late Judge Judith Kaye, who argued that the judge should have recused himself, and a group of professional responsibility law school professors on the same side.
Prof. Bennett Gershman analyzes the issues and implications of Williams v. Pennsylvania in his latest HuffPost article titled A Perfect Storm: Judicial Prosecutorial Misconduct, and a Death Sentence and outlines the various issues involved in this case. The ultimate question is not only whether the judge should have disqualified himself when deciding the defendant’s death penalty appeal but also whether, if he didn’t, his bias on the panel decision was nothing more than a harmless error. As Prof. Gershman concludes that
…without Justice Scalia, a 4-4 split on the Supreme Court is possible. And if that is the result, then under the Supreme Court’s rules the decision of the Pennsylvania supreme Court would be affirmed – and Terrence Williams will be executed.
We all think and say it: images are worth a thousand words. The same is true when prosecuting a case. Prof. Bennett L. Gershman of Pace Law School, in his latest HuffPost piece titled Prosecutorial Misconduct Using Courtroom Technology, challenges the way some prosecutors put on their cases when using technology. He suggests that many increasingly cross the line when they use technology to suggest that “‘beyond reasonable doubt’ is really not that demanding” of a standard, when they use “visual trickery” to awaken an angry and emotional reaction out of jury, or when they sway juries by showing “misleading and prejudicial images” during their closing arguments.
Prof. Gershman states that
[a]lthough there’s nothing inherently wrong with using technology in the courtroom, more and more prosecutors cross the line by exploiting the power of technology to skew the way juries analyze the evidence, and thereby prejudice a defendant’s right to a fair trial.
Check it out and share your thoughts.
Pace Professor Bennett Gershman makes a case for the establishing a prosecutorial misconduct commission, as New York considers doing just that. Read the article in The Daily Beast titled How to Hold Bad Prosecutors Accountable: The Case for a Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct.
In his most recent Huffington Post blog post titled Did the Rosenberg Prosecutors Suborn Perjury?, Prof. Gershman raises a question about prosecutors suborning perjury based on the recently released grand jury testimony of David Greenglas, Ethel Rosenberg’s brother and prosecution’s witness. It is a fascinating read – check it out!
As we reported last week, a hearing was held on Friday, May 29 on the motion for appointment of a special prosecutor in Ferguson. After a contentious discussion the Judge Joseph L. Walsh III agreed to consider the expert affidavit of Prof. Bennett Gershman on the issue of prosecutorial misconduct in the grand jury.
Gershman complained about a “gross deviation from proper standards of conduct,” saying he never before saw prosecutors go to “extraordinary lengths to exonerate a potential defendant.”